Should Airbnb pay hotel taxes? The issue is still causing the kind of drama you wouldn’t want in your home — and lawmakers are now arguing that the service’s hosts, whose names they’re trying to get their hands on, are driving up rents for the rest of us.
Today, state and federal lawmakers from New York issued a press release calling for stronger enforcement of the state’s illegal hotel law, which was revised in 2010 to make it clear that renting a residential unit for less than 30 days is the same as renting a hotel room, and is illegal.
The attorney general filed an affidavit in court yesterday subpoenaing for Airbnb records that will identify the service’s hosts and whether they illegally rent out their apartments.
“Airbnb thinks they can buy, bully, and lawyer their way out of respecting our local laws,” State Senator Liz Krueger (D-East Manhattan), said in the press release.
Airbnb wants the subpoena to be blocked, arguing that it violates the privacy of its users. “This attack on thousands of regular New Yorkers who occasionally rent out their homes was a wrongheaded waste of time and law enforcement resources,” the company said in an email to its members that characterized the attorney general Eric Schneiderman as “determined to fight innovation and attack regular people.”
According to a study of Airbnb records conducted by the attorney general’s office, close to two-thirds of Airbnb rentals in New York City violate the illegal hotel law, the New York Post reports. But Airbnb insists, in its email to members, that “Short term rental laws were never meant to apply to New Yorkers occasionally renting out their own home.”
Anybody who’s looked for an apartment in New York City knows how hard it is to find one. The politicos say that Airbnb isn’t helping.
“Every apartment converted into an illegal hotel room is an apartment that’s off the market for permanent residents — exacerbating New York City’s crisis-level housing shortage and increasing rents,” Krueger said.
“It has the potential to skew the entire housing market toward a higher level for everyone in New York City,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
But Airbnb estimates that its users will generate $768 million in economic activity in New York this year. In an effort to avoid more legal battles, the service recently offered to begin paying the state’s hotel tax. According to the New York Daily News, affordable housing advocates say that Airbnb shouldn’t be allowed, arguing that rents would continue to rise.