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Airbnb User Information Subpoenaed by NY Attorney General Schneiderman

October 17, 2013

Attorney General SchneidermanOn October 7th, New York State Attorney General (AG) Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena to Airbnb demanding that they supply the AG with the user data of all of the NY residents who have rented their apartments through Airbnb for the last three years. This subpoena is part of the AG’s larger investigation into the illegal rentals taking place on Airbnb’s site.[i] The AG’s interest in enforcing the Short Term Rental Ban raises a lot of concern for those who rent through Airbnb.

The AG specifically requested: (a) name, physical and email addresses, and any other contact information; (b) their Profiles; (c) address of the Accommodation(s) rented, including unit or apartment number; (d) the dates, duration of guest stay, and the rates charged for the rental of each associated Accommodation(s); (e) method of payment to Host including account information; and (f) total gross revenue per Host generated per year for the  rental of the Accommodation(s) through [Airbnb’s] Website; (g) all tax  related documents.[ii]

According to the AG, “the 10 most active Airbnb hosts owe $8.5 million in hotel taxes for nights they’ve rented their homes and skirted the 15 percent tax that hoteliers in the state are forced to pay.”[iii]

Airbnb has responded by going to the NY State Supreme Court (which is the trial court in NY) to reject the subpoena as overly broad.[iv] Time will tell whether the judge will enforce or deny the AG’s subpoena.

Both Attorney General Schneiderman and Senator Krueger have stated that the law was intended to curtail the actions of large illegal hotel operations rather than individuals who just rent out their apartments once in a while and don’t disturb anyone.

Senator Krueger stated that “Airbnb should be obligated to follow the law, and they should open their listings for inspection.”[v]

Technology start-ups like Airbnb move at a much faster pace than the law. A recent article in The New Yorker had some suggestions on finding a middle ground in the “delicate ecosystem” that is New York City. They suggested an “in-between solution” where there would be a deal on taxes, a crackdown on illegal hotels, and landlord permission required.[vi]

We will be keeping you updated as this story develops. We will also be posting articles in the near future that will guide you through making sure that your apartment rental is legal.

What do you think about these new developments?

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