As part of Airbnb’s ongoing tussle with New York state, the company said it will provide the names and addresses of a select 124 hosts—and anonymous information on an additional 16,000—to the New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman.
In a Friday blog post, the apartment-rental service said the disclosure is part of an earlier agreement to provide the attorney general with a profile of the New York Airbnb community.
Back in May, New York state filed multiple subpoenas for Airbnb user data in order to determine if users were violating a state law that bars landlords from renting out apartments for fewer than 30 days while the resident isn’t also present. In that case, these apartments would be operating as hotels, which normally pay a 15% tax in New York. Schneiderman claims that since Airbnb users don’t pay it, the state is missing out on millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.
Airbnb is especially popular in New York and particularly New York City. The region has become Airbnb’s largest market. It’s no wonder the company has put lots of time and money into convincing New Yorkers that Airbnb is good for them. The company has an advocacy website, a slew of commercials featuring happy Airbnb hosts, a wide-scale subway campaign, and was a sponsor of the New York City Marathon. However, the efforts are an uphill battle against landlords, hoteliers, and lawmakers, who all argue that Airbnb is harmful to their businesses or taxation opportunities in one way or another.
Airbnb found the initial subpoenas too broad, and said that after some “legal wrangling” was able to expose only 124 hosts’ data, less than 1% of the New York Airbnb community. The company noted that each host has been individually contacted, so if you are a New York Airbnb user who has not been contacted, you can be assured the attorney general does not have your personal data, although you may still be one of the 16,000 hosts to have your information turned over while still preserving your anonymity.
David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of public policy, wrote in the blog post that the “vast majority” of these 124 hosts no longer operate with Airbnb. While he stated that it’s difficult to tell why the attorney general has targeted these particular hosts, he said that Airbnb is complying because the company has become “increasingly confident” that Schneiderman seeks only to eliminate “bad actors” rather than the sporadic hosts that make up the majority of the community.
“The vast majority of our hosts are simply renting out their own homes on an occasional basis,” he wrote. “The law was never meant to target them, and we now believe the Attorney General did not mean to target regular New Yorkers either.”
Airbnb plans to hold an online seminar Monday afternoon for New York hosts to ask questions about the ongoing investigation.
Screencap of Airbnb CEO and founder Brian Chesky on the Colbert Report
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