NY attorney general to issue new Airbnb subpoena

May 13, 2014 GMT

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s attorney general plans to issue a new subpoena on Wednesday seeking information about people using the global website Airbnb to make short-term apartment rentals in New York City after a state judge blocked his earlier attempt.

Justice Gerald Connolly ruled Tuesday that the subpoena filed last year by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was “overbroad,” granting Airbnb’s motion to quash it.

State investigators are seeking information about Airbnb’s hosts going back three years, noting many listings appear to offer unoccupied apartments for very short periods, violating the law against unregulated hotels.

Schneiderman’s subpoena will be reissued to address the technical issue the judge raised while dismissing the global website’s other arguments, his spokesman Matt Mittenhall said. It’s no surprise the judge found evidence many Airbnb hosts may be violating hotel and tax laws, given that Airbnb recently removed 2,000 New York listings from its site, he said.


Airbnb called the judge’s decision to quash the subpoena “good news for New Yorkers who simply want to share their home and the city they love.” The company, whose website tells travelers they can “rent from people in over 34,000 cities and 192 countries,” said it looks forward to working with Schneiderman’s office for the common goal of making New York a better place to live.

The law prohibits owners or renters of apartments in multi-unit buildings from renting them for less than 30 days unless they remain present. The law permits having boarders or renting rooms.

Authorities say the goal is to prevent a host of short-term strangers and transients from renting city apartments meant for permanent residents and from unfairly competing with hotels.

In an earlier affidavit, a researcher for the attorney general said Airbnb had listed 19,522 city rentals on Jan. 31, from 15,677 apparently separate hosts, nearly all for less than 30 days. Almost 64 percent were for the entire apartment, indicating the host would be absent.

The judge wrote that there is evidence that “a substantial number of hosts” may be violating the law and tax provisions, while Airbnb failed to show the information request is “unduly burdensome” or that the host information is confidential. However, the subpoena as drafted was not limited to New York City or rentals of less than 30 days, nor did it take into account exceptions to the tax law, he wrote.

The subpoena therefore “seeks materials that are irrelevant to the inquiry at hand and accordingly must be quashed,” he wrote.