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AirBnB vs New York. Update

Apparently AirBnB, the popular site for booking generally inexpensive rooms in a home or apartment (or entire homes and apartments for that matter) has agreed to share customer information with NYC, although it claims that the data will be at least somewhat anonymized.

 

More on the developing story here in this post from  Bloomberg Businessweek.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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From the Bloomberg article:  "Airbnb has been working hard in recent months to change the law in the company’s favor."

 

This limited characterization makes me wonder whose side Bloomberg is on, given any individual NYC host or user has more to loose or gain than Airbnb, since the company will succeed with or without NYC listings.  Given the timing of the original law, it seems clear that it's largely commercial interests that back the law limiting just who can participate in the short-term rental market and I sincerely hope the forces of an open marketplace prevail.  This, the opinion of a host /user of this very valuable service.

Bloomberg is a big business type publication so I believe they would tend to favor the big corporate guys.  And the unions they employee.  And the government officials these big corporations tend to grease.

 

I personally believe in free choice.  Let people decide where they want to stay.  New York City, being one of the most expensive for hotel rooms in the world, needs more consumer choices in my opinion.   AirBnB is one of the most innovative products to hit the travel market in a long time.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Originally Posted by DrFumblefinger:  "Bloomberg is a big business type publication so I believe they would tend to favor the big corporate guys.  And the unions they employee.  And the government officials these big corporations tend to grease."
 
Indeed, it is.  I didn't really wonder.

 

 

As a frequent Airbnb renter (about 16 times) I obviously think it's a valuable thing and want it to succeed. I also think that there's room for reasonable regulation that's sensitive to local needs, and that a reasonable compromise can be found.

 

Let's take the case of New York City...there is a real shortage of affordable housing. While it's not caused by Airbnb, but rather by a series of market issues that I won't rehearse here, it's reasonable for the city/state to ban short-term rentals that take apartments off the market.

 

But when a tenant rents out his or her apartment occasionally, it does not take the apartment off the market. Maintaining a supply of housing in price ranges that allow people who work in the city to live in the city is a reasonable public goal; protecting the interests of the hotel industry is not a goal that rises to that level.

 

I've suggested in the past, both online and in correspondence with my elected officials, that they should be looking at solutions that provide for a) registering those who want to participate, b) requiring that it be the primary residence of the host, c) setting a limit on the number of times or number of days per year an apartment can be rented. A solution like that would allow people to earn money, allow visitors a good choice of places to stay, and guarantee that the housing supply not be adversely impacted. It would, in fact, make people's present housing more affordable.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Everything you say, P, is logical and fair.  The problem becomes compliance and enforcement, not a separate issue.  A segment of people will always try to game the system and it's impossible to enforce these kinds of regulations in such a complex and populous place.  

 

Even here, where I live in a relatively rural place, I suspect I'm the only one in a large county collecting and paying the short-term occupancy tax.  I do it, not because I'm honest, but because I don't want to think about possible enforcement later which may be in the form of a huge (for me) bill.  I also know that most others don't, probably will get away with it despite the law, and it puts me at a disadvantage in pricing.  But it's what people do and it's not enforced (yet).  The same will apply in NYC and other places, Airbnb will do the minimum of reporting and it'll be left to neighbors to call authorities, not a good situation for anyone.  I don't know if it's possible to solve this equitably.

Last edited by PortMoresby
I think my proposal as written could work; in my haste I left out one aspect and that is that Airbnb or similar would be expected to require that a host supply his or her city registration number, or look it up on city website. The company would be subject to penalty for unlicensed listings or for handling rentals beyond the limit. Of course if the host rented through other agencies beyond the limit, that would not be on Airbnb...some city enforcement mechanism would be ended but that's true for every law.

Listings on Airbnb are done as independent contractors and while Airbnb can advise their listers to comply, and do, I don't think they will, or even should, be responsible for that compliance.  Companies who hire independent contractors , including Airbnb, aren't responsible for those people doing what they're supposed to do.  

 

I think it's unrealistic to suppose that what isn't a requirement in other industries, should be in this one.  One may want them to be responsible for everyone's compliance but I have a pretty good idea they won't put themselves in that sort of untenable position.  Why would they?  Beyond NYC, there would be no end to their liability if they accepted such requirements, with all the laws in all the jurisdictions in which they operate.   I think your solution has gone beyond the point of feasibility, legally as well as practically.

Last edited by PortMoresby

Well, I see the point of your argument, but even without any liability on Airbnb's part it could work. Part A) If the local jurisdiction (NY or elsewhere) catches you in violation you can be fined, or whatever penalty. Part B) on notification by local jurisdiction that a listing is in violation, agency required to remove listing. I'm sure Airbnb and others would be able to work with that...they're willing to collect taxes and this would be far less burdensome than that! 

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

I missed something...what taxes do they collect?  None in my case.  I collect it, include the bed tax in my price, which Airbnb gives to me in their payment, and I file a return with the county quarterly when I pay them.  Income reported to IRS, but my responsibility to pay any tax due.

 

But I think the rest is reasonable.  No requirement that Airbnb enforce anything except in response to local authorities that a rental is illegal.  In theory, they already remove substandard listings, so much the same thing.

I'd love it if they collected the bed tax here.  Since they don't, and it's my impression that few here pay it, including it as part of my fee creates an imbalance for me, making it appear as though I'm getting more than I do.  I state the breakdown in my listing but hardly anyone actually reads the listings.  If they collected it, it would give a fair comparison of the room rate with the taxes added on at the end, as the fees are now.

 

I think, though, despite what seems a good idea from the point of view of the government entities involved, that the company will not make it a rule to collect the taxes but only when forced to do so as a condition to operate in those places that require it.  Too bad for me, no compliance goes unpunished.

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