Fighting for you in New York

You might have seen news reports about a subpoena from the Office of the New York Attorney General demanding data about all Airbnb hosts in New York.  The vast majority of these hosts are everyday New Yorkers who occasionally share the home in which they live. We always want to work with governments to make the Airbnb community stronger, but at this point, this demand is unreasonably broad and we will fight it with everything we’ve got.

Today, I want to provide a few details on our work in New York and the steps we are taking to strengthen the Airbnb community and fight for you.

Last week, months of work with our key teams and lawmakers around the world culminated in an announcement from our CEO about our vision for the Airbnb community, who we are and what we stand for. We announced that we want to work with leaders in New York and other cities to ensure that the Airbnb community pays applicable taxes. We announced that we were creating a new hotline to help weed out the few bad actors from the Airbnb community. And we made it clear that we want to continue working with leaders in New York to clarify the existing laws that govern short-term rentals so we can create a fair, transparent, cooperative environment for this incredible beneficial activity to continue.

We believe the Attorney General is only seeking to target an incredibly small number of bad actors who abuse the Airbnb platform. That’s a goal we all share. Bad actors like illegal hotel operators and slumlords aren’t part of our vision and have no place on Airbnb and we hope we can work with State leaders to weed out these individuals.

Here’s what happens next:

In the days ahead, we’ll continue our conversations with the Attorney General’s office to see if we can work together to support Airbnb hosts and remove bad actors from the Airbnb platform. We are confident we can reach a solution that protects your personal information and cracks down on people who abuse the system.

As these conversations continue, we will always be committed to protecting our hosts’ privacy and we will always stand by the hosts who are the heart and soul of this community. And in the days and weeks ahead, I’ll use this space to keep you informed about this matter.

I’ll also continue to update you on our larger efforts to fix the law that is at issue in this case.  Even the politicians who wrote the original New York law agree it was never designed to target ordinary, everyday people who occasionally share their homes. We want to continue to work with policymakers to clarify these rules, fight illegal hotels, and ensure people in New York can share their homes with travelers from around the world.

Every day, we are inspired by the stories of hosts who are sharing the home they live in and the city they love with people from around the world. And we will never stop fighting for you.

Comments

  1. So, what specific personal information is to be turned over? Once they have it, what happens to us? What are the taxes going to look like?

  2. How does those work in regards to commercial spaces that are equipped with a full bathroom and kitchen?

  3. Underwhelmed says:

    While I’m very grateful to AirBnB for providing a platform that has allowed me to return to school, those of us who have been your business partners, allies, and customers in NYC deserve better than AirBnB’s response. What does this subpoena mean to us? What should right-acting citizens and AirBnBer’s do to avoid penalties? What does it mean that you are “fighting the subpoena with everything you’ve got”? A stern look while you hand over our personal data?

  4. David Gellman says:

    If you reach the point where you are required to divulge ANY information about me I would like you to please delete/remove me as a host on your site.

    I have never created even one booking through airBNB so I am not technically an active host anyway.
    Since I have never had any bookings I do not think you would be required to provide any information about me.

    If you would have allowed reviews from guests outside of AirBNB I most definately would have been able to establish myself on your site and would have had many bookings since I have 25 5 star reviews before joining your site. But your policies make it prohibitive for one to get started.

    And now I do not want to be penalized for this by having any personal information divulged about me when I never even hosted 1 guest.

  5. Being a host and a guest, I am a strong supporter of the concept of sharing a home with others. Our place is priced to allow financially challenged people have an experience they would not be able to afford in a more commercial setting. As a host, that gives us satisfaction. As a guest, I am convinced the concept is for me. Often we have made friends of the hosts and still communicate with some on a regular basis.
    We have used airbnb in many places on our travels overseas. It is in NYC though, that we have noticed that many listings are not obviously people sharing their homes. This is not appropriate and doesn’t fit the concept.

  6. Ricardo Fernandez says:

    Hello,

    Thank you very much for your effort in protecting us, the airbnb community. I have been a pretty successfull host for the past year and a half due not to poor negligence but to lots of work and great character. I am in No way close to a Hotel by taking time and energy to help guests navigate to my home and often taking them on tours and fun outings to give them a real feel for this wonderful city and my incredible apartment that’s been my home for the past 8 years. The Hassidic owners of my building have been illegally raising the rents and creating a false real estate market starting with raising our rent over 30% in One jump! And that was 5 years ago. Now when tenants move out they hire illegal street workers to ‘re-model’ and build Small sometimes 8 single bedrooms in a one floor 1200 sq ft unit. All in the name of bringing the building up to code, and ultimately charging a Large X amount of dollars and renting out the rooms Individually! I was scared of eviction a few years ago and had spent several numerous hours and days going to local court hearings and meetings about Loft Living in NY only to realize that all that time and energy didn’t really amount to much and there’s no one to Police this illegal activity they indulge in and reap very extremely high benefits.

    I am quite concerned about how much taxes I will be ultimately faced with being that I’ve generated a substantial income for my efforts. I was in the military after high school, having lived on an aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy for nearly four years, and learned to hold high levels of Courtesy, Communication, Cleanliness, Professionalism, and Good Character. I’m very highly thankful for your service and look forward to hearing more on this matter in the current future.

    Thank You

    Ricardo (Rico) Fernandez

  7. Josh Margolis says:

    Hi,

    I am a business owner in Williamsburg who travels to San Francisco frequently for business. I have enjoyed the benefits of renting out my apartment in Williamsburg to travelers from all over the world. In the past, we used to use craigslist with great success, however the airbnb platform has given us the peace of mind that there is a community of support behind us, both for financial scams, and to help weed out undesirable guests (and hosts vise versa) In fact, airbnb completely eliminates the scam host problem via craigslist and other vacation rental sites.

    Subletting your expensive New York apartment has become a necessity for the average New Yorker who travels for work. Without the income, most people in the creative industries would not be able to afford to live here. Subletting has been an institution in New York for decades and airbnb has made the process more transparent and more comfortable to both guests and hosts. It is my hope that a regulated tax will satisfy the authorities as they need to understand that as technology changes, so does the process of a fundamentally necessary need such as subletting, is allowed to continue.

  8. What exactly constitutes a “bad actor”? And what exactly is an abuse of the AirBnb platform? How much AirBnB renting a year is acceptable? Can I have one room that I rent out all year round? Can I have one apartment that I rent out all year round? Half the year?

    My wife and I are AirBnb hosts, we live in our building and rent out part of it, and we think we’re both great hosts and upstanding members of our neighborhood, but how do we know if we’re bad actors or good examples?

  9. Bit confused by this. It’s very ambiguous, the way it’s written. What do they want the information for? What is a bad actor? I ask, because I saw in the last blog post implied that the main reason that Nigel’s fine was overturned was because he was present during the rental. What about those of us ‘ordinary New Yorkers’ that rent out our entire apartments while we are away on vacation or something? Are we bad actors, or what is our status? Thanks for clarifying….

  10. Lois Ross says:

    I hope that I am not being targeted because this will be an invasion of my privacy. I object to what is being done by the Attorney Generals office. Please keep me posted.

  11. I think it’s time to organize mass calls and emails to the office and a CARE2 petition site. (Thepetitionsite.com)
    I’ve done both but not a petition because i’m not great at articulating a message to a broad audience.

  12. At this point I don’t know very well if I should be closing down my profile on Airbnb. I rent the apartment where I live, the whole apartment, I have another place to stay with a friend that has a rent stabilized apartment, so I rent out mine completely. I am always fully booked and with this money I can survive in the city and also help out my friend. Now this turns out that can’t be done and I am facing penalties and the attorney general after us. What is the situation for all the new Yorkers that rent out the whole apartment for less than 30 days? I need some clarification.

  13. Airbnb has allowed me a financial opportunity to pursue my career in a city that I love but monetarily prevents me from doing so. On Airbnb, if I find myself financially struggling, I’m able to get a roomate or go stay with a friend and rent my apartment out for a short time in a procedure that I feel safe with instead of craigslist. In return I’ve met some of the most amazing people from all around the world, bringing commerce and spending money in our city and neighborhoods. If Airbnb did not exist, I prob would have had to move from the city long ago, it provides me a little extra income and a draw to NYC for others who may otherwise not be able to do so due to the steep prices of accomadations in New York City.

  14. David Vesely says:

    Bully for you! Thank you or standing up to the people that build the community and work to make a positive experience for adventurous travelers. Have you got a contingency plan if the AG decides to pursue with more fervor such as in the case when the NSA went ager Lavabit?

  15. Sirs-
    as the law stands now how is AirBnB treating hosts on reporting payments?
    Are you reporting to IRS? I’m in New York City do you report to NY STate? Are payments considered earnings? Is there a threshold amount and is it on 1099?
    Many thanks
    pl

  16. I really feel that this could have been avoided if Airbnb kept this issue underground. You can bet that the Hotel industry in NYC have put to work their lobby to get rid of their competition and will reach out to other large cities as well.

    I would appreciate clearer definition about the law as it applies to the last NYC victory. I do not run a hotel but share my bedroom for just one Guest at a time and live in the same apartment. I may have the least expensive private room in NYC. I do it because I enjoy helping others and the company having a guest gives me. The money is negligible but it certainly helps as I have been without work or income for over 2 years.

    Everyone of my guests has had nothing but good things to say about me, the economical benefit and the comforts I provide them.

    I hope Airbnb will protect my identity and private information from oversight and any government scrutiny.
    To my mind the approach you are taking to appease the City by offering them more taxable income from the hosts pockets in addition to income taxes is short sighted and may become a handicap in your argument. For if we are not Hotels why would we be subject to these new taxes. It is my concern that by conceding that we should fall under the Hotel tax umbrella we give up the idea that we are not hotels but a separate entity. I feel this would be a bad precedent to offer to any opponent who would wish to outlaw your present NYC business model.

    If you have any NYC hosts who will be called upon to participate in your litigation and give testimony I would be glad to step up to the plate.

  17. Sarah Gaddis says:

    Hi David,

    I think an occupancy tax is definitely fair. But then will we be hit again for income tax? Something to consider…

  18. That you are working and fighting for us all in the name of love, at the end, I think, it’s going to be a win-win situation all around. As for taxes, a given and gladly paid.. Thank you for championing the cause of an individuals right to happiness. I am inspired Aye, June

  19. Diane Eamtrakul says:

    Dear Air BNB,

    My comments about the Law son Air BNB are the following,

    1. Bed and breakfast must be less than 20 or 25 units in total, own by one or two owners, from One or several homes in walking distance ( less than one half mile .
    2, Above should follow transient and paying more tax or fee.
    3 bed and breakfast,is commercialname as home stay no mandate to provide daily breakfast.
    4. Agree on Hot Line.. Protect guests and Host the authorities of any unusual activities. Such as terrorists or drug traffick. Etc.
    5. Annual fee for registration of $ 100 per year per household to be posted at premise.for BNB of less than or equal 6 units.
    6 above 6 units but less than 25 units there should be $50 per unit per year.
    7. Not agree on add on tax to guests per stay because most of hosts do not have much business within the first few years , most are operate at loss.

    Regards, Diane

  20. The latest happenings with Airbnb is very concerning. Mainly, I feel that in helping out one person in NYC (Nigel), it has hurt everyone else greatly. By helping him, we’re now being threatened with an imposed tax to NYC. This will do nothing in helping our cause against landlords and will only protect Airbnb’s back. Airbnb should do this in every city and not just NYC. Also, now that Airbnb “won” the case, the NYC DA is going after everyone and wanting our information from Airbnb? This is extremely concerning and makes me certain that helping out Nigel that we are all screwed. thanks, Airbnb, for opening this can of worms and unleashing pandoras box on us all.

  21. PogoStick says:

    Plus, Nigel was renting a room. The vast majority of revenue comes from people renting out their entire apartment. How did this case help all of us who generate massive amounts of money each year? Now, the NYC govt is saying, ok…rent your room, but we will get everyone renting out their full apt.

  22. Verna Thomas says:

    Dear Mr. Hantman….it is a disturbing realization that after working for years to pay off a mortgage, the home that is now ours is controlled by laws that dictate what we can and cannot do with it…. however, It is comforting to know that my Airbnb family is doing all they can to protect and fight for those of us who share our homes with visitors from around the world…August 2013, I joined Airbnb and already had the pleasure of hosting , interacting and learning about different cultures…Tokyo, Switzerland and Haiti just to name a few….David, this is my only source of income!…..I pray my independence will not be interrupted and my family can continue to break bread at my table….hosting gives not only me but countless others a sense of security by easing financial burdens…I enjoy hosting and look forward to the arrival of each guest ;…..and hope that Verna’s Brownstone experience is positively remembered……in Brooklyn, New York, there is a program called ” Quick – Match ” Home Sharing service….212 – 962 – 7559….or visit http://www.nyfsc.org…..this program allows home owners to host guest who share their living space…..hope this info can put some light on the Airbnb family situation …..I pray that a solution be quickly found and executed…..allowing no interruption in our continued success and growth……..thank you for allowing me to ” Speak My Mind ” …….VernaThomas

  23. The world needs more idealists like David, but unfortunately, the “criminal justice” system in New York is completely corrupt and the Attorney General will have no problem at all getting the subpoena enforced. (And yes, one of the ultimate results of this development is that the NSA will eventually have a complete database of Airbnb users and their activities.)

    This being said, could we perhaps see the subpoena? What alleged crime is the Attorney General purportedly investigating? Does he intend to interrogate everyone? To jail us at Rikers or elsewhere in the state while the cases are prosecuted? What if we live in our apartments and rent out a room all the time? Does that qualify as “occasionally” having a “drunken tourist”?

    Incidentally, the Attorney General recently criminalized “astroturfing,” a practice engaged in by hundreds of thousands of people online (look up the “best chiropractor in New York” and I guarantee you all of the fake reviews are posted by the “best chiropractor in New York” himself; the same goes for all the ads for any product on Amazon). I don’t see anyone protesting about that little development, and no one will protest about this either.

  24. Please, would you more specifically define “bad actors” and “Illegal hotel operators”? Are you only interested in helping/protecting people who share spaces with their guests? Because you seem to have no problem taking money from those who rent out apartments in which they do not reside and I do not think that makes them “bad actors” who “abuse the platform.” Thank you.

  25. airbnbfan says:

    Hi David,
    Can you specify on: small number of bad actors who abuse the Airbnb platform?
    I wanted to understand this since I don’t even know what the platform is?

  26. When I first started to air BMB, we received 1099s. The second two years they told me to go to PayPal and figure out the total luckily I paid my taxes on what I made with air BMB my guess is that this will be an audit for all of us air B&B users Which trust me is no small feat The fact that the government is giving our names and that you’re not being forthcoming is what is considered a “bad actor” or acting like a hotel” could mean just somebody who rents out their place often it seems that this might be trouble for all of us

  27. I understand you want to change the law, but the simple fact of the matter is that, if you live in NYC, renting out your apartment for fewer than 30 days is against the law, unless you or one of your legal roommates continues to live there. If Airbnb were a responsible company that respects the laws of the places it operates, it would remove all listings in NYC for entire apartment rentals, until such time as the law has been changed.

  28. Brian Chesky mentions in his most recent email he thinks the Attorney General is “targeting a few bad actors abusing the airbnb platform”. How are you defining the ‘bad actors’?

    Thanks

    Kind regards

    Julian

  29. Anon Air B says:

    This is very scary for a lot of us. We use your service with the good faith that you’ve looked into a lot of these issues. I’m not a landlord evicting tenants but have been very active air bning my place this year. We’re not big potatoes. If we get fined heavy or sued we go bankrupt.

  30. David Rouge says:

    Hi guys:

    This is a serious attempt by a responsible public servant to right a wrong we have not really created. There is an incredible shortage of short-term housing in New York created by the misguided elimination of SRO’s in brownstones and residential hotels. We need to reform the zoning code so regulations do not restrict responsible owners from creating or maintaining these.

    Some of us rent for short term. But others rent to share their apartments. There is an even more serious shortage of affordable apartments, created (again) by misguided regulations (i.e. the density restriction in the zoning code). The singles population has boomed; the housing portfolio has not. Apartment sharing is a needed reaction to this. In effect, the housing stock has not expanded to meet the needs of population profile. We are building 2-bedroom apartments that can only be afforded by shares. NYC builds very few studios. The Bloomberg administration is funding a 50 unit pilot to address this. Ha!

    We could do the City an immense benefit by advocating (prospective) Mayor DiBlasio to accommodate the needs of singles. We need serious public policy change, and that can only come from energetic leadership.

    Would we care if the demand were a tad less and we had slightly less income? Hardly.

    In effect, New York State regulates housing through rent stabilization. The AG is asserting that right. There is pretty massive subletting, and with his investigation the AG can collect valuable information on the one portion of that phenomenon which is available.

    Grant him that rent deregulation has damaged the living standard of hundreds of thousands of New Yorker. Renting of entire apartments by absentees should probably be curbed — but so should we try to resolve the housing shortage. Similarly, thousands of Airbnb hosts scrape to pay their exorbitant rents.

    For its part, the State is starved of revenue and is looking for a cut of the massive profits of the tourist industry. I can deal with that. I donate 10% of my earnings to my coop; 10% to Homes for the Homeless, and 10% to my church’s building fund.

    If Airbnb would collect hotel taxes for me, I’d pay that too!

    I share my apartment because it has excess space and I really enjoy the company. I use my profits to (slowly) renovate. Besides, my guests are fascinating and enlightening!

    That’s my opinion!

    David Rouge

  31. Mr. No Name says:

    I am not going to reveal my name because I am a successful NYC host for one property and don’t want to be outed by airbnb or the attorney general.

    You need to be more specific about what you mean by “occasional.” Where is the bright line? One week a month? Two weeks? What? If you are going to set a bright line of “abuse,” then you need to program in limitations that prevent hosts from renting out more than X days a month.

    If you are now suddenly considering hosts with popular listings “abusive,” as the following Forbes piece suggests, then you are going against everything that was taught to hosts about how to boost their traffic. It’s classic bait and switch. So, we are now going to be thrown to the dogs because we have a popular listing? Seems grossly unfair.

    Successful hosts need to know you will not throw them to the wolves. They need to know that you will not reveal their names under any circumstances. And they need to know if hiding their listings right now will prevent this fate. Or whether they will need to drop out of the airbnb community entirely.

    See this link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2013/10/07/new-york-state-ag-seeks-airbnb-data-on-hosts-in-legal-battle/?utm_source=followingimmediate&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20131007

  32. just my two cents: I have been a host since 2008 and really love what Airbnb community provided me. Meeting most interesting people from around the world is the best thing (almost traveling without living your couch). The income earned is taxed and reported on my personal tax return so there is no problem in that aspect.

    There were times that i did not have any booking for months and I was wondering what other listings were offering that I did not. I saw many listings with the “entire apt” and the owners are doing this as a business (written in their profile). I believe some travelers think the system works like a hotel and they prefer to have the place entirely to themselves. but I disagree on that. We are providing what hotels do not (or will at a much higher rate), a personal touch. We share stories, sometimes cook together, take our guest to local restaurants, helping in many ways to our local community.We are opening our houses to people, who otherwise cannot dream of coming to one of the most desired but expensive city in the world.

  33. I tnink we are all screwed. Call ur lawyer. Because this where this going. AirBnb might be out of business. Other states are going to follow. There are a number of very complex issues here which could include frayd.

  34. What is the most recent update on NYC?

  35. I used to be a fan of Airbnb, but now I think it just contributes to higher housing prices. For areas where housing is in short supply, and high demand, Airbnb just makes things worse as you are using up housing for tourists. It especially sucks when you see wealthy people buy up housing just to put it on vacation rental websites like Airbnb as another means for just making money. I think vacation rentals should be regulated more so that it does not impact the cost of housing so much for people that live in areas that see a lot of tourists.

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