In a battle that has been going on since last October, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena seeking data about thousands of renters, Airbnb has pulled thousands of NYC listings. This, after Schneiderman filed an affidavit yesterday in support of his subpoena.
Schneiderman’s office has been investigating Airbnb claiming that many of the listings run afoul of laws against illegal sublets, and in yesterday’s affidavit (PDF) he includes research to support that claim. He says that nearly two-thirds of the sites listings are illegal, and also included a list of 17 of the largest users on the site that all have at least one “illegal listing.”
In response to that affidavit, Airbnb says it’s removed thousands of NYC listings from its site, but not because of Schneiderman — because it was already working to do so on its own.
The company’s head of global public policy, David Hantman, wrote in a post on the Airbnb blog that the affidavit is just a distraction tactic to take the attention away from his subpoena.
“In an attempt to distract from their vast data demand on regular New Yorkers, the New York Attorney General’s Office has circulated a list of Airbnb users with a large number of listings. Every host on this list that rents apartments has been notified that they and their listings will be permanently removed from Airbnb,” Hantman wrote.
A spokesman added in a statement sent to Business Insider that this has been in the works for a long time, so it’s not like Schneiderman had anything to do with its actions.
“The New York Attorney General continues to say one thing and do another. He says he’s interested in just a few bad actors. If that’s true, he should ask us about them, and he’d find out they are already leaving our site,” the spokesman said. “We’ve already taken action to identify bad actors, and those hosts and more than 2,000 of their listings in New York are being removed from our platform under a plan that has been in place for months.”
On top of all that, says the spokesman, Airbnb is bringing in a lot of cash to New York, claiming that guests paid $31 million in sales taxes to the city and state last year, and that the Airbnb community will bring in $768 million in economic activity next year.
For its part, Schneiderman’s office said it tried to work together with Airbnb but alas, its efforts weren’t enough.
“Attorney General Schneiderman has worked in partnership with innovative tech companies like Facebook and Yelp to curb illegal activity on their sites. It’s disappointing that Airbnb has taken a different approach, resorting to name-calling and public relations to confuse the issue,” Schneiderman’s spokesman said. “Airbnb is simply looking out for its bottom line at the expense of a law that protects quality of life for building residents and safety for tourists.”
Today the issue heads to the New York State Supreme Court judge, who will hear arguments about the subpoena.
New York and the Airbnb Community [Airbnb blog]
Airbnb Removed Thousands Of ‘Illegal’ Listings After Challenge From New York’s Top Lawyer [Business Insider]