FROM SLATE | MAY 22, 2014
Airbnb and the New York Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday that they had reached an agreement on a months-long conflict over Airbnb hosts in the state. Under the terms of the agreement, Airbnb will hand over "anonymized" data stripped of names, email addresses, apartment numbers, and other personally identifiable information. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will have a year to weed out hosts in violation of local laws and can require Airbnb to disclose the identities of those with suspicious activity.
The AG's office and Airbnb issued a short joint statement online saying the agreement "appropriately balances Attorney General Schneiderman's commitment to protecting New York's residents and tourists from illegal hotels with Airbnb's concerns about the privacy of thousands of hosts."* Airbnb reiterated this point in a post on its site, but added that it would like to see changes to the law that allowed the investigation in the first place. Schneiderman told the Associated Press that his office will "pursue anyone who's running illegal hotels."
The New York Times reports that starting in June, new hosts on Airbnb's site will be warned by a pop-up window that, under the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, it is illegal to rent an apartment for less than 30 days unless one of the apartment's permanent occupants is present. New hosts will also be informed about restrictions on renting out rent-stabilized and rent-controlled properties.
One concern about the New York investigation and a related suit against the company in San Francisco is that government regulators are challenging Airbnb and other "sharing economy" services to protect established industries. Airbnb threatens to overturn the traditional hotel market in the same way that services like Uber could upend taxis. "At stake are hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue (which will not be 'shared')," Zachary Karabell wrote in Slate last month. "Incumbents are attempting to protect that revenue using the legal system.
Whether or not New York and other local governments prove amenable to reworking their laws around these industries will help to signal how much that fear is justified. But considering what New York state Sen. Liz Krueger told the Times—that Airbnb "remains a scofflaw company whose business model is at odds not just with multiple New York laws, but with the basics of the New York City real estate market"—the theory that regulators are protecting the establishment doesn't seem like a stretch.
*Correction, May 23, 2014: This post originally stated that the May 21 statement was issued by the Attorney General's office. It was issued jointly by the AG's office and Airbnb.