New York AG seeks Airbnb's NYC sublet information

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 22, 2014 at 5:22 pm •  Published: April 22, 2014
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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Airbnb urged a New York judge Tuesday to reject a subpoena for information about those using the global website to offer apartment rentals in New York City, its attorney calling that "a fishing expedition."

The subpoena filed last year by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is improperly "overbroad" and certain to snare information about thousands people who haven't broken any laws, attorney Roberta Kaplan said.

"This is private information. This is confidential information," she said.

State investigators are seeking that information about its so-called "hosts" going back three years, and it's clear from press reports they're not interested in charging everyone who may casually sublet their city apartments with a misdemeanor, Kaplan said. She questioned whether authorities intend to cull the information looking for "a back way" to get tax information, while noting exceptions in tax law that the subpoena ignored.

Countering Tuesday in court, Executive Deputy Attorney General Karla Sanchez said many listings on the Airbnb website are for entire apartments, apparently unoccupied, for less than 30 days that violate the state law against illegal and unregulated hotels. She said they're not investigating the website. "We're investigating the hosts," she said.

The subpoena seeks host names, addresses, rental rates, lengths of stay and tax data first requested last fall.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly questioned both lawyers, refused to accept any late evidence that missed the filing deadlines and adjourned without ruling from the bench, but inviting both sides to talk it over and see him. They left instead.

"Today, the Attorney General again made it clear that he remains determined to comb through the personal information of thousands of regular New Yorkers just trying to make ends meet," David Hantman, Airbnb's head of global public policy, said in a blog post afterward. "We were proud to stand up for our hosts who share their homes, and against this over-broad, government sponsored fishing expedition. Cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg are embracing the sharing economy and New York shouldn't be stuck playing catch-up."