Airbnb is entering its first year with David Hantman in charge of figuring out its approach to the patchwork of laws that Airbnb largely ignores. Expect a smarter approach from the company as it tries to win more support and prep for an IPO.
Late last week, vacation rental site Airbnb received good news when a $2,400 fine issued against Nigel Warren, one of its New York City hosts, was overturned by the Environmental Controls Board. Airbnb had footed the legal fees for Warren following the initial ruling in May.
The court threw out the fines because Warren’s roommate was present during the Airbnb rental. New York state law prohibits the rental of an entire unit for less than 30 days if the owner or tenant is not present.
State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who helped write the law that made most short-term rentals in Manhattan illegal, responded to the ruling with a statement clarifying her position, and re-iterating her arguments against Airbnb’s activities.
“Airbnb may have scored a PR victory with the success of this appeal, but that’s all it is,” Sen. Krueger wrote. “The vast majority of Airbnb’s business in New York City — short-term rentals of apartments in residential buildings without any permanent residents present — remains unambiguously illegal. Some may call that ‘paradigm-breaking’ or ‘disruptive’ — but ultimately, it’s just irresponsible and greedy.”
Sen. Krueger hasn’t been charmed by Airbnb’s tactics in her district, and says that many of the units on Airbnb are being rented by people with multiple units, not residents trying to make money to pay a rent or mortgage. She has blasted the company in the past as “pathologically irresponsible,” among other things.
There’s little love lost between Sen. Krueger and Airbnb, as she’s become the public face of legislative opposition to the vacation rental upstart. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has acknowledged the conflict, writing about her on Y Combinators Hacker News as someone “trying to protect her legislative legacy” and misrepresenting what he’s shared with her about Airbnb users.
After the ECB decision on Friday, David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of public policy, wrote on the company’s blog “In the appeal, we and Nigel argued—and the appeal board now agrees—that under New York law as long as a permanent occupant is present during a stay, the stay does not violate New York’s short term rental laws.”