Skift Take

Airbnb's aw-shucks tale of regular people trying to make a buck to get by is no longer what the service is about. For it to move forward and stay honest, it will need to start telling the whole -- sometimes messy, sometimes inspiring -- story of its business.

Today Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky used his company’s blog to write about the legal landscape he’d like to see in New York City, one of the company’s largest markets and the one it needs to figure out before it can move forward with an IPO.

Chesky wants the state’s legislators to change a current law that prohibits most hosts from renting out an entire apartment for fewer than 30 days. If the law was changed, the more than half of his company’s hosts that are currently breaking the law could stop worrying about being fined by the city.

Chesky writes:

On behalf of our New York City community, we want to work for sensible laws that allow New Yorkers to share their space, earn extra income, and pursue their American Dream. And we want to work with New York to pass laws that meet three fundamental principles:

  1. We believe regular people renting out their own homes should be able to do so, and we need a new law that makes this clear.
  2. Our hosts are not hotels, but we believe that it makes sense for our community to pay occupancy tax, with limited exemptions for those who earn under certain thresholds. We would like to assist New York City in streamlining this process so that it is not onerous.
  3. We are eager to work with New York to remove bad actors in our community that are causing a disturbance to their neighbors, and will create a 24/7 Neighbor Hotline where we will service the complaints.

Airbnb shared that the hotline will soon be live.

None of the three points will require Airbnb to change how it does business. City and state officials who have worked with Airbnb in the past explain its unwillingness to adjust its own practices.

New York State Senator Liz Krueger, who co-sponsored the law that Airbnb doesn’t like, issued a statement earlier today [below] that read: “Airbnb has hired lobbyists, met with legislators, and advocated changes to our law — all of which they are entitled to do. But they shouldn’t be entitled to ignore the law just because it gets in the way of their making money.”

One Person, One Home

The Airbnb narrative focuses on the hosts who use the service to supplement their income — the city’s actors, baristas, musicians — and Chesky returns to this theme in his note. But this distracts from the true entrepreneurs of Airbnb, the sizable portion of hosts who are a new breed of Toshi-like property managers, overseeing units where tenants have been kicked out to accommodate the by-the-night renters who make them considerable more money.

Chesky writes that 87% of Airbnb hosts rent the homes in which they live, but Airbnb does not currently limit the number of listings that a host can have on the website. Airbnb declined today to provide Skift with the share of listings that come from this type of user versus those that have more than one unit.

The most rudimentary of searches demonstrate that the service is filled with hosts that rent out multiple properties in New York City’s most desirable neighborhoods. User Platto has these eleven listings spread throughout the city:

Hosts like Platto aren’t rare on the site, and for every person who rents out only their apartment, there’s a Philip, Sandye, David, or Gina that can offer more than one to choose from. These hosts have hundreds of positive user reviews.

Airbnb doesn’t like to talk about these users as much, even though they most likely represent the majority of the bookings that take place on the site — again, Airbnb will not share this data. With their small empires, they are the ones who are best prepared to take advantage of the company’s new push to improve hospitality.

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Tags: airbnb, nyc

Photo credit: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on stage at LeWEB11 in Paris, France. LeWEB12 / Flickr

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