If you have an Airbnb listing in New York City, your data is likely now in the possession of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (“OSE”), the body charged with enforcing New York’s laws that apply to short-term rentals. Your particular level of liability exposure and risk of citations depends on a variety of factors, but in light of recent developments, the city now has a powerful tool for cracking down on Airbnb in New York.
In February, New York City issued a subpoena to Airbnb demanding data on 20,000 listings thought by city officials to be in violation of New York’s short-term rental laws. As a compromise, Airbnb agreed to turn over partially-anonymized data to city officials on over 17,000 listings, as well as data on every listing booked on Airbnb between January 1, 2018 and February 18, 2019 that might be in violation of such laws. The data includes room type, bookings, and host payout information, as well as anonymized data including addresses, contact information, and bank account information in hash code format. The city can now comb through the data for patterns that indicate illegal activity and can then request that Airbnb de-anonymize that data. The agreement to de-anonymize data upon request lasts until February of 2020.
Airbnb’s agreement with the city appears to have galvanized new enforcement initiatives. Since the data transfer, numerous summonses for Airbnb-related offenses – including improper transient use, failure to provide code-compliant safety features like an automatic sprinkler system, and violations of the Multiple Dwelling Law – have been issued, signaling a rise in efforts by the city to curtail short-term rental activity. Additionally, in the days surrounding the agreement, numerous hosts reported account deactivations by Airbnb, many of which resulted from purported violations of Airbnb’s “one host, one home” policy in New York, suggesting that Airbnb is taking measures internally to limit its own exposure.
Our firm will continue to monitor this situation closely. If you have questions, concerns, or believe you need representation in connection with Airbnb in New York and would like to speak with one of our attorneys, please contact Brandon A. McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at (212) 644-1000.