After a City Council bill requiring companies like Airbnb to share detailed information about short-term rental listings was blocked by a federal judge in January, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration invoked the Office of Special Enforcement’s subpoena power to get the information.
“I’m always amazed by these big companies that have the chance to do it right and decide to do it wrong,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “Every industry has to give us a huge amount of information. . . We have laws, and you can’t enforce those laws if you don’t have information.”
The blocked bill asked for the names and addresses of hosts renting out rooms and apartments every month, which de Blasio argues is to ensure that landlords aren’t using the service to turn groups of apartments into “de facto hotels” or to circumvent affordable housing laws. The same goes for single-unit listings too, de Blasio said–occasionally renting out an apartment is fine, but keeping a unit empty except for short-term rentals is illegal.
Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s global policy head, opposed sharing this information, claiming that the company “would welcome the opportunity to work with the City” to regulate their business, and that in the meantime they are self-policing with their “One Host, One Home” policy.
“This week alone we are removing over 40 listings that we have learned were created in violation of our policy,” Lehane writes. “And when we become aware of bad actors seeking to find new and creative ways to circumvent our policy, we will continue to remove such bad actors. But while we welcome collaboration with the City to accomplish this, we know this is not enough.”
Currently, under New York’s Multiple Dwelling Law, apartments in large buildings cannot be rented out for less than 30 days unless a permanent tenant is also living there, but de Blasio says that without access to Airbnb’s records, the law is difficult to enforce.
“Right now the whole situation is complaint-driven, because we can’t see the whole playing field,” de Blasio said. “Which is why we need the information.”
Airbnb, for their part, described New York’s Multiple Dwelling Law as “outdated” and “draconian.”
“For regulatory frameworks to be truly effective, platforms like Airbnb and government must work together on enforcement and avoid unintended harm to regular citizens,” Lehane writes. “Simply put, relying on outdated rules that don’t recognize the way home sharing works today shortchanges our community and the City of New York.”
In issuing an injunction against the City Council disclosure law, a federal judge ruled that disclosing names and addresses of short-term rental listings “implicates” Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches.
“They’ve said that they want to have a cooperative arrangement, but how can you regulate, how can you have a common language, if they won’t even divulge what they’re doing?” de Blasio asked.