Airbnb Settles In NYC Over Illegal Listings

Airbnb has abandoned a battle with New York City over a law that affects the state’s apartment residents listing their homes on the site. New York has some of the toughest limits on short-term apartment rentals in the country. A bill passed this summer made it illegal to advertise or post on Airbnb any listings for rentals of whole apartments in shared buildings for fewer than 30 days. Hosts can be fined $1,000 for a first violation of the law and $7,500 for a third.

Those types of rentals have technically been illegal since 2010. The law was originally intended to prevent landlords from removing tenants from their properties to convert residential buildings into accommodations for tourists, which were more profitable. The law applies to the entire state. Airbnb did not have a significant presence in New York when the law was passed, but its opponents are increasingly using the law against it.

Airbnb made a big show out of rallying hosts to fight the law. The company held events in New York aimed at getting hosts to lobby against the bill before it was signed into law, spending millions on the lobbying campaigns. Airbnb claimed that the law violated the First Amendment and the Federal Communications Decency Act.

The company has announced that it settled its lawsuit against New York over the law. As a condition of the settlement, the fines levied for violating the state’s apartment rental rules would only be leveled against hosts and not the company. The law was written in a way that implied its fines would apply to hosts. Airbnb now has that distinction in writing.

Airbnb plans to work with the city to target the law towards more traditional illegal hotels. Airbnb said in a statement, “We look forward to using this as a basis to finding an approach that protects responsible New Yorkers while cracking down on illegal hotels that remove permanent housing off the market or create unsafe spaces.” It’s still unclear exactly how the law will be enforced. A public hearing will be held later this month on questions surrounding the law’s enforcement.

The actions taken with New York could inspire other cities to follow suit. Airbnb is facing similar pressures in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Miami Beach, Florida; Portland, Oregon; Toronto; Barcelona; and Berlin. Legislators worry the platform is taking units off the market for longer-term residents. Laane, an organizing group in Los Angeles, warned that “landlords can potentially earn significantly more money by converting traditional rental stock into Airbnb units.”

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