New York City issues subpoenas for over 20,000 Airbnb listings

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to identify city's 'illegal hotels'

New York City regulators are demanding Airbnb hand over the details of more than 20,000 apartment listings as part of a attempt to regulate short-term rentals that could have sweeping consequences for the San Francisco-based company.

Issued on Monday, the subpoena is part of New York’s larger legal battle against the short-term rental platform. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that regulators were trying to identify instances of landlords hosting “illegal hotels” in their apartments.

The city first passed laws regulating rentals of a few days in unoccupied apartments in the summer of 2018. In January, a Manhattan judge blocked legislation requiring Airbnb to disclose information about Airbnb hosts so that authorities could investigate who was renting out apartments for more money than allowed by law.

Monday’s subpoena is a way to side step that order and access Airbnb data anyway.

“We want to make sure there’s not illegal hotels,” de Blasio told Spectrum1 News. “We want to make sure that something that is supposed to be an occasional business is not a full-time business.”

Airbnb has repeatedly said that it tried to work with the city to regulate over-renting in the city – it claims to have removed over 5,000 listings in New York and introduced a ‘One Host, One Home’ that only allows people to place one property on the site at a time.

In a public letter to de Blasio, Airbnb’s Chris Lehane brought up the example of cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia, where the platform has created a registration process to pass on tax revenue from the apartments in collaboration with the city.

“Now, regular people who rely on home sharing to make ends meet are able to continue to do so and those that the city does not want on the platform are stopped,” the letter reads.

Still, some city council members and fair housing advocates claim that widespread use of Airbnb jacks up the price of housing in lower-income communities and brings the regular flow of strangers into residential buildings.

Meanwhile, other assembly members claimed that city regulators have increased their efforts to to crack down on individual hosts — some even said enforcers have trailed people around homes in Brooklyn.

Email Veronika Bondarenko