In Bid to Avoid Crackdown, Airbnb Submits NY Rental Plan


In a bid to defeat what it considers to be onerous legislation, Airbnb this week unveiled a proposal for responsible home sharing in New York City.

In June, major cities around the world began rolling out new regulations for residents who want to rent their homes via short-term rental websites like Airbnb. Their main concern is that homeowners are flipping what used to be permanent rental properties into short-term Airbnb rentals, thereby reducing rental inventory in cities that are already in the midst of a housing crunch.

Not surprisingly, Airbnb sees things differently, framing its platform as a means for people living in expensive cities to get by. Now, after campaigning against San Francisco's new registration requirement, Airbnb is turning its attention to New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has until Oct. 29 to approve or veto legislation that could inflict heavy fines on hosts that run afoul of state restrictions.

"There's a better way forward," Airbnb's head of public policy, Chris Lehane, argues an op-ed published by the New York Daily News. "Today, Airbnb is proposing a comprehensive set of clear, fair rules for home-sharing in New York City to serve as the framework for new legislation."

At the heart of Airbnb's plan is a provision that Lehane says will limit renters to leasing a single home within New York's five boroughs. "While a change in state law is essential to enforcing this provision, Airbnb will demonstrate our commitment to protecting permanent housing in New York by automatically preventing hosts in residential properties from having more than one home within the city starting Nov. 1," he writes.

Lehane also backed a registration system for short-term rental hosts—similar to the online program it recently created in Chicago. "Online platforms like Airbnb would be authorized to register hosts on the state's behalf, which would increase accountability and improve enforcement for regulators," he writes.

The company hopes to avoid the complicated paper system legislators in San Francisco approved over the summer, which requires all short-term rental listings to be posted by residents who have completed a city registration process. Unregistered listings could earn the site daily fines of up to $1,000.

Airbnb's new plan, meanwhile, includes a "three strikes" policy that would bar hosts from the service after repeatedly breaking the rules. Airbnb would also be authorized to collect and remit taxes on hosts' behalf, in a move toward "tenant protection and affordable housing," the op-ed says.

"Just as we changed laws to adapt from the horse-and-buggy era to the automobile, so should we update laws first drafted prior to the Great Depression to recognize the economic opportunity home-sharing provides," Lehane says. "Unfortunately, current state law does not distinguish between everyday New Yorkers who occasionally rent out their homes and illegal hotel operators who remove permanent housing from the market."

The pending New York bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, would fine hosts $7,500 if they are caught posting illegal listings on Airbnb, according to TechCrunch.

"Airbnb has created a black market for illegal hotel operators, and my bill will help to crack down on bad actors who are depleting our affordable housing stock and destabilizing our communities," Rosenthal said in an April statement.

New York City law bans rentals of 30 days or less if the owner of the property is not present.

Gov. Cuomo's office did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.

Airbnb and New York have faced off in the past: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2014 reported that 72 percent of city-wide rentals made on the site in the preceding years were illegal in some capacity.

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