Airbnb just won a small victory in its fight against regulators in New York state. A judge has ruled that a subpoena by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was too broad, buying Airbnb some time while the state rewrites its request.
The first subpoena was very wide-ranging. For every host, the state wanted a full name, address, email address, any other contact information, Airbnb user name, address of rental, dates and duration of guest stays, rates charged, method of payment, total gross revenue per host, and all tax-related communications with Airbnb.
The judge concluded that the subpoena needed to be limited to the jurisdictions that have adopted New York's Multiple Dwelling Law, which says some properties are residential and must be occupied continuously for 30 days or more. The subpoena should also be limited to hosts who had guests stay for less than 30 days, the judge writes.
New York will probably just rewrite the subpoena and issue it again
The state has been investigating Airbnb for facilitating illegal hotels, or vacation rentals that don't pay applicable hotel taxes and may not provide things like extra fire alarms or exits that the law requires hotels to have. The company says it just wants to help people rent out their extra space, but there is evidence that some hosts are using Airbnb to rent out lots of properties, making them more like hotel operators than participants in the "sharing economy."
Schneiderman will probably reword the subpoena and issue it again, but Airbnb took the moment to say something positive. "This decision is good news for New Yorkers who simply want to share their home and the city they love," the company said in a statement. "Now, it’s time for us to work together." There is no reason to believe the state won't take the company straight back to court, however.
"The judge rejected all of AirBnb’s arguments except for a narrow technical issue, and we will reissue the subpoena to address it," a spokesperson for the Attorney General said in a statement.