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Airbnb Calls NYC Law Seeking Host Information ‘Murky’

By Rachel George

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Earlier this year, Airbnb filed a lawsuit against New York City over a new law requiring the site to share information about its hosts.

 

An Airbnb lawyer said the law was too vague to stand since it does not contain any data protection policy or guidelines on whether the information can be shared among other city agencies. Airbnb’s attorney Roberta Kaplan shared this information at a hearing with U.S. District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer last Friday.

 

“The very murkiness of the regulatory regime here should give the court concern,” Kaplan said.

 

The City Council voted in favor of preventing people from renting their apartments to tourists. The city believes it raises rents, disrupts neighborhoods, and increases gentrification.

 

The law states that Airbnb and similar sites must share the names and addresses of renters with the city along with their rental type (room, apartment, etc). This would help the city enforce a law that makes it illegal for most landlords to rent an apartment for fewer than 30 days. Airbnb believes says the disclosure law violates their hosts’ privacy rights.

 

Allegedly, Airbnb has been refusing to cooperate and has fought every subpoena issued by the city. According to Karen Beth Selvin, an attorney for the city,  New York City doesn’t want to bring thousands of cases into courts against Airbnb over its data and that the law gives regulators discretion in determining whether a violation has been committed.

 

Carlina Rivera, a former housing advocate, and councilwoman, who introduced the bill said, “This is about preserving as much affordable housing and housing stock as possible.” Others beg to differ.

 

Airbnb’s head of global policy Chris Lehane says the policy will subject hosts to over-policing and violates their privacy rights. He also believes this law works in favor of hotel owners over residents. “This is a bill that really is designed to benefit the hotel industry,” he says.

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