Airbnb today agreed to turn over details of potentially illegal renting arrangements made through its service to the state of New York.
Under the letter of agreement released today, the “data set shall be anonymized” by redacting such personally identifiable information as name, emails, phone numbers, and social media account info. Individuals and apartments will be replaced by unique identifiers, and that data will remain confidential.
But Airbnb will then be required, for up to 12 months, to produce names and other identifying info on anyone that New York investigates or is the subject of a “potential enforcement action.” Airbnb will also be required to show a notice about New York requirements to anyone listing new properties in the state.
In a joint statement, issued after months of back-and-forth, the company and the New York Attorney General’s office said:
“Airbnb and the Office of the Attorney General have worked tirelessly over the past six months to come to an agreement that appropriately balances Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to protecting New York’s residents and tourists from illegal hotels with Airbnb’s concerns about the privacy of thousands of other hosts. The arrangement we have reached today for compliance with the OAG [Office of the Attorney General] subpoena strikes this balance.”
Last fall, the room-sharing service was hit with a subpoena for information from the AG’s office because of potential violations of a state law prohibiting any renter from subletting a full apartment for less than 30 days if the building has three or more apartments. Single and two-family homes are exempt. Unpaid taxes are also potentially an issue.
The initial subpoena, based on research from the Investor Protection Bureau in the AG’s office, requested information on about 16,000 listings that were considered possible illegal sublets. The Bureau said that more than 60 percent of the listings in New York City were full apartments for rent less than 30 days, although the number of units in the buildings were not specified.
Airbnb has told the AG’s office that its top 100 hosts in New York have grossed more than $54 million in the past three years. In New York and elsewhere, there have been complaints about how Airbnb’s practices affect communities in terms of rents, property taxes, influx of tourists, and other issues.
The company challenged the subpoena because, it said in a blog post today, “the [initial] demand was overbroad.”
Last week, an Acting Supreme Court Justice in Albany ruled that the subpoena sought materials “that are irrelevant to the inquiry” but that there was evidence suggesting the listed hosts were providing rentals that “may not be complying with the state and local tax registration and/or collection requirements.” The AG then submitted a new, more targeted subpoena.
In April and before, Airbnb permanently removed thousands of listings in New York City from its site, although it allowed them to support their existing bookings. In a post related to the delistings, the company said it had “found that some property managers weren’t providing a quality, local experience to guests.”
In a blog post today, Airbnb said it believes it has “reached an agreement that will protect the privacy of thousands of Airbnb hosts, while allowing the Attorney General to investigate bad actors and move us forward.”
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