Airbnb’s web site for rooms to rent in New York City. ()
ALBANY – State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Airbnb announced an agreement Wednesday under which the Internet-based company will comply with the state’s subpoena for information about New York apartment rentals.
The agreement calls for Airbnb to “anonymize” renters’ data to hide personal identifying information such as apartment, Social Security and telephone numbers.
However, Airbnb agreed to turn over detailed information about the “hosts” if the screening of the data suggests possible violations of law. The deal stipulates that Airbnb will produce the data over the next year if it is demanded in writing as part of an investigation by the attorney general’s office or the New York City Office of Special Enforcement.
In addition, Schneiderman said Airbnb has agreed to reach out to its hosts online and require them to acknowledge they are subject to New York state and city tax laws, if applicable, and with the state Multiple Dwelling Law before their properties will be listed on Airbnb’s platform.
Schneiderman’s office agreed to share the information only with its investigators, the special enforcement office and city and state tax departments.
None of the data sought through the subpoena involves the names or other personal identifying information of those renting New York units through Airbnb, a spokesman for the attorney general said.
The attorney general’s office reissued a subpoena to replace one from October 2013 that was quashed by Acting Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly (See Profile) in Albany earlier this month. Calling that subpoena overly broad, Connolly said it would have unnecessarily requested information from Airbnb hosts who were clearly not violating any state or city laws (NYLJ, May 14).
Schneiderman has contended that some of the Airbnb rentals may be subject to state and city sales taxes that apply to hotels. The short-term rentals may also violate the Multiple Dwelling Law, which stipulates that apartments in New York City may not be rented out for less than 30 days in a year unless the owner is occupying the unit.
Schneiderman has suggested that as many as 60 percent of the Airbnb rentals may violate state or local laws.
The company countered that it is not subject to the violations because it neither owns nor sets the prices on units listed on its website. However, Airbnb also said it continued to try to reach an accommodation.
“We wanted to do everything we could to avoid turning over data on thousands of regular New Yorkers, so we continued to work with the attorney general’s office, and we now believe we have 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,” David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of global public policy, said in Airbnb’s Public Policy Blog on Wednesday.
In a joint statement with First Deputy Attorney General Janet Sabel and Airbnb’s Deputy General Counsel Darren Weingard, Schneiderman said the agreement balances his desire to police illegal hotels with Airbnb’s privacy concerns about its hosts.
Counsel for Airbnb is Roberta Kaplan, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.