The subpoena will likely be pared down before it is issued. Some big issues will be coming to a head in this probe, including whether an apartment rental by an individual renders the apartment a hotel that is subject to occupancy tax.
Airbnb filed a petition in New York Supreme Court today seeking to block the state Attorney General’s subpoena that seeks detailed information on the site’s rentals and hosts over the past three years.
“The burden of responding to the NYAG’s subpoena will be substantial,” and would require Airbnb to “extract hundreds of thousands of separate records spanning millions of [Excel spreadsheet] cells,” the Airbnb petition states.
It would require weeks of work by multiple departments across the company, Airbnb states.
The New York Attorney General’s subpoena requests all records — including detailed breakdowns about hosts, rates and methods of payment — of all Airbnb rentals in the state dating from January 2010 to the present, except those where the host stayed at the property during the rental, in which case the rental is consistent with state law.
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“Airbnb has no reliable method of determining whether a Host is present during the Guest’s stay,” the company stated.
Users of Airbnb can, though, search for “entire apartment/house” on the site, which limits results to those where the host is not present.
More on Airbnb’s Challenges
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- Airbnb’s growing pains mirrored in New York City, where half its listings are illegal rentals
Although the exact nature of the New York Attorney General’s investigation is not known, Airbnb and reports from other news outlets have suggested that the office is seeking to ensure that hosts pay occupancy tax for rentals, adding that it is targeting bad actors who are improperly renting multiple units, and is not going after individuals who rents out their apartments occasionally.
In a blog post today, Airbnb repeated its claims that the subpoena is overly broad, and that the company will fight it.
“But the subpoena issued by the Attorney General last Friday goes well beyond bad actors and demands information about thousands of regular Airbnb hosts in New York,” the blog post states. “So, we made it clear to the Attorney General’s office from the very beginning that we would never agree to this type of government-sponsored fishing expedition.”
Airbnb notes that there is no lawsuit against it alleging fraudulent acts, and there is no malfeasance alleged against the company.
If Airbnb complies with the subpoena, however, it would be extremely worrisome to hosts and renters in New York State, a very important market for the company.
Airbnb says it will likely take weeks for a judge to decide the matter.