New York State Senator Liz Krueger issued a statement saying a New York Post report published Monday that described escort services using AirBnB shows how the startup dedicated to letting people rent their homes and apartments to guests could fuel illicit activities.
In addition to prostitution, Krueger claimed Air BnB could also lead to gambling and drugs.
“The outcome of this, predictably, has been constant streams of tourists disrupting residential buildings, and other inappropriate, even illegal activity floating from building to building,” said Krueger of the company’s services. “Today it’s a prostitution ring, tomorrow it could be an illegal gambling ring, and maybe next week it could be a drug operation. There’s really no way to know.”
The Post report included an interview with a prostitute who said her escort service generally uses Air BnB rooms rather than hotels to “save $US200 to $US300 a night.” The Post also told the story of a woman who said she rented her apartment via Air BnB only to receive a call from police when an alleged prostitute got slashed there after getting into an argument over the price of their services. According to the woman, when she returned to the apartment, she found “baby wipes and ‘at least 10 condoms’” inside. Air BnB subsequently paid for the woman to temporarily stay in a hotel, cleaned her apartment, and replaced some of her belongings.
Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who has sponsored legislation in 2010 aimed at helping New York City take action against illegal short term renters, said prostitution was an “obvious” consequence of Air BnB’s business.
“When residential housing ceases to be residential — via online businesses, like Airbnb, turning residential apartments into illegal, unregulated hotel rooms — all kinds of undesirable and illegal activity can be brought into a residential building,” said Krueger. “Prostitution wasn’t really at the top of our minds when we passed the 2010 law helping NYC enforce against illegal short-term rentals, but in hindsight it seems kind of obvious.”
She also argued Air BnB needs to do more than “textbook PR” to help people avoid “disasters” like finding escort services in their home.
“What we do know is that Airbnb continues to demand we legalise its illegal conversion of apartments into short-term hotel rooms,” Krueger said. “And while it’s nice that Airbnb spares no expense in compensating hosts who experience disasters like the use of their apartment as a headquarters for a floating brothel, that’s a textbook PR tactic and shouldn’t be mistaken for actual responsibility. Because if Airbnb were truly responsible, they would stop openly violating our local laws, or at least stop enthusiastically encouraging New Yorkers to rent out their apartments without giving them fair warning that it’s probably illegal, almost certainly violates their rental lease or coop/condo rules, and could get them evicted.”
Kruger also said Air BnB doesn’t isn’t concerned about the consequences of its actions because its executives don’t live in the buildings where it rents rooms.
“There’s a reason that we zone certain areas, buildings, and neighborhoods to be residential — both because we need to protect the limited housing stock we have from being arbitraged into other uses, and because residents living side-by-side and on top of one another in apartment buildings deserve some ground rules and guarantees about what they have to put up with,” said Krueger. “Companies like Airbnb have decided to ignore all that, so they can pull in revenue from the estimated two thirds of their New York City business that’s illegal. What do they care? They don’t live in these buildings.”
Last year, a New York City man said his department was severely damaged after Air BnB renters used it for an event marketed as an “XXX Freak Fest.” Air BnB customers have also reportedly used rentals for prostitution in Washington D.C. The company responded to the Post story by noting it is cooperating with the police.
“The entire hospitality industry deals with issues like this, and we have zero tolerance for this activity,” the company said.