• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 11:25pm
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New York taking on Airbnb.com over claims users breaking law on sublets

New York's attorney wants website's data on subletters who may be breaking state law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 5:17pm

New York's top attorney is facing off against Airbnb.com an online housing rental service in the United States, over claims people are using the website to illegally rent apartments in the city.

New York state's attorney general is demanding Airbnb turns over data on city dwellers who have listed on the site as part of an investigation into whether residents are breaking a law barring sublets for fewer than 30days if occupants are not present.

Thousands of city residents are using websites such as Airbnb.com to list apartments or rooms for as little as US$35 a night - a phenomenon officials say is illegal in many cases, undercuts the hotel industry, avoids taxes and threatens apartment building safety.

There has been a backlash against the company from local governments across the US.

The government's investigation is targeting users who have multiple listings on the website. This may be a sign that they are illegally working as third parties, instead of fulfilling the site's intention of helping people to rent out their own apartments.

Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, is seeking more information about Airbnb users who illegally rent New York apartments on the site. Airbnb rejected an initial subpoena in October and has been battling state officials ever since.

The New York Post, citing multiple sources, reported on Monday that the company would appear in court this week to respond to Schneiderman's complaint.

"If you're one of the thousands of New Yorkers who has ever rented out your place while you were away for a weekend, the Attorney General still wants to know who you are and where you live," Airbnb public policy chief David Hantman said in an e-mail sent to Airbnb hosts.

Data extraction company Connotate found nearly 12per cent of Airbnb hosts hold about 30 per cent of listings in New York, said an affidavit obtained by news website TechCrunch. One user has more than 130 Airbnb listings, data shows.

Airbnb said it had been working to remove these users from the site. "The small group of bad actors that abused our platform aren't part of the Airbnb community any more, or are on their way out the door," Hantman said.

However, Connotate data shows users with multiple listings have increased their listings since the subpoena was issued.

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