A federal judge is blocking a rule in New York City that would have gone into effect next month requiring Airbnb and HomeAway hosts to disclose their identities and the addresses of their listings to the city’s Office of Special Enforcement every month, or pay a fine. The judge is preventing the rule from taking effect until resolution of ongoing litigation regarding the ordinance, which Airbnb and HomeAway claim violates the First and Fourth Amendments.
“The decision today is a huge win for Airbnb and its users, including the thousands of New Yorkers at risk of illegal surveillance who use Airbnb to help make ends meet,” an Airbnb spokesperson said in a statement on the preliminary injunction. “The court today recognized the fundamental importance of New Yorkers’ constitutional rights to privacy and the sanctity of their own homes.”
Short-term rentals are a controversial issue in New York City — a popular tourist destination and an expensive real estate market. Critics of Airbnb and similar platforms say they take much-needed residential housing stock off the market to lease to visitors. As more hosts list more properties on platforms like Airbnb, a tightening housing supply can push rents higher for New Yorkers. Meanwhile, Airbnb says it is providing hosts with a new way to earn income, and that its opponents are supported by the hotel lobby, which wants to dampen competition from Airbnb and its ilk.
In New York City, tenants may only participate in home-sharing if they are also present on the property while the guests are there, and “hosts citywide are only allowed to list entire home listings at one, discrete address,” according to Airbnb’s own policy. However, many New York listings on Airbnb are for the “entire place” and critics say a new crop of property managers are essentially running illegal hotels out of homes. The new ordinance — which required hosts to reveal the addresses of their rentals and whether they were renting out the entire home or part of it — would have given the city information to enforce the law.
New York State Senator Liz Krueger said she was disappointed in the decision to prevent enforcement of a law that is “critically important to the city’s efforts to crack down on illegal hotels and to preserve our limited housing stock for real New Yorkers.” She said, “Airbnb has made clear time and again that they have no respect for our laws, the rights of landlords, the safety of tenants, or the needs New Yorkers desperate to find affordable housing.”
“Tens of thousands of New Yorkers fought tirelessly for the past decade to protect our affordable housing stock — especially rent-regulated housing — from being illegally turned into short-term rentals for tourists. It’s no surprise that Airbnb is still exploiting every legal loophole available in order to buy time and continue to profit off the backs of tenants being pushed out,” said Mike McKee, treasurer of the advocacy group Tenants PAC, in an emailed statement. “Airbnb says New York City’s address disclosure law isn’t needed. We call on Airbnb to prove it by removing and ban listings from wealthy commercial operators who violate New York law. It’s time for Airbnb to put up or shut up.”
Jonathan Westin, executive director of the organizing group New York Communities for Change, said Airbnb, which has claimed it will work with the city, should “voluntarily share the data that law enforcement needs to weed out the illegal rentals that threaten our affordable housing.”