The New York Attorney General Is Going After Airbnb For What It Calls 'Illegal Hotels'

Brian cheskyGetty Images/BloombergAirbnb co-founder, CEO Brian Chesky

The New York Attorney General’s office filed legal paperwork on Friday to compel Airbnb to turn over names of some of its users.

The AG wants to subpoena Airbnb’s records to locate people it believes are running “illegal hotels,” according to an AG spokesperson.

New York’s top attorney believes that some people are using Airbnb to rent rooms as a business, sidestepping licensing requirements and not complying with rules like fire safety regulations, the spokesperson said. The AG is also looking at how hotel tax laws should apply to Airbnb rentals, the court documents said.

The spokesperson says the AG isn’t trying to shut down Airbnb entirely in New York, nor stop people from using it to rent out a spare room now and then.

“It is illegal for residents of Class A buildings to rent out their apartments for any period of time less than 30 days unless they are also present in the apartment,” the documents say.

In other words, in New York, it is ok to sublet your apartment for a month or more; it’s not ok to rent it for a few nights.

One reason the AG is pursuing this is because of an increasing number of complaints by landlords and fellow tenants when Airbnb rentals go awry, according to the documents.

The AG’s office is especially interested in finding those Airbnb users who have multiple New York listings on the website, the spokesperson told us. The spokesperson sent us a list of the type of user they want to investigate, those that have 15-140 properties for rent through the website.

Airbnb has filed a motion to quash the subpoena.

On its blog, Airbnb argues that the issue in New York is hotel taxes:

“Earlier this week, we released new data indicating that the Airbnb community will generate $US768 million in economic activity in New York and support 6,600 jobs this year. We highlighted a state law that prevents Airbnb from collecting and remitting $US21 million in hotel taxes. And we asked leaders to work with us to change the law to permit Airbnb to collect and remit taxes on behalf of our hosts and guests. It isn’t every day that a company offers to help contribute more tax revenue.”

Airbnb is fighting legal battles on both coasts. People in San Francisco are getting evicted for using Airbnb and are starting to fight back.

We reached out to Airbnb for further comment and will update when we hear back.

Here’s the full court document that spells out the AG’s argument:

Brief AirBnb 11.8.13

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