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City Council passes bill to force Airbnb, other home-rental services to disclose host information

The measure requires Airbnb and other rentals to give names, addresses and other data to the mayor's office - or face fines up to $1,500 for each undisclosed listing.

Within a week of Stanley “Skip” Karol’s appearance before the New York City Council, he said Wednesday, agents from the mayor’s office visited his home and issued four summonses totaling $32,000 in fines for violations. He is suing. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to force home-rental services like Airbnb to disclose hosts’ names, addresses and other data to the mayor’s office — or face fines up to $1,500 per undisclosed listing.

Lawmakers approved the bill, Introduction 981-A, in a 45-0 vote.

Airbnb said it passed after a six-figure-dollar campaign by the city’s hospitality industry and union, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, whose members work for Airbnb competitors: traditional hotels. 

Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who controls the council’s flow of legislation, said at City Hall that he was sympathetic to New Yorkers anxious about transient strangers in their residential buildings.

“The person says, ‘Why is it fair that people are coming in and out of my building with keys? They don’t live here. They’re trudging through with bags. They’re being loud, because they don’t live here full time, so they are behaving in a way like this is a hotel — when it's not,’ ” said Johnson (D-Manhattan).

Under the law, the websites must submit electronic reports on a monthly basis, which include names, addresses, transaction records, the listing’s web address and other details. A fine for failing to comply would be levied against the violating website, such as Airbnb, not the local host.

Wednesday's legislation would complement the state’s 2011 "multiple dwelling law" that bans paid stays of fewer than 30 days, unless the regular occupant is present or the short-term rental is in a dwelling housing three families or fewer.

Backers of the legislation say that uncovering violations without the data requires intensive investigations. And they blame home-rental sites like Airbnb for reducing the city’s fleeing below-market-rate housing stock — a claim disputed by Airbnb — and that an unknown number of listings are operating makeshifts hotels under the shingle of traditional rental apartments.

Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said she expected him to sign the legislation. The law takes effect 180 days later, though it could be sooner under certain circumstances.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which lobbied unsuccessfully for collected data to be anonymized and the retention period to be capped, says the bill contains insufficient privacy protections and the group is worried about a new government database, said spokeswoman Naomi Dann.

During floor debate over the legislation, Airbnb hosts and people in “UNION” T-shirts sat intermingled in the chamber gallery. The union backers wiggled their hands and fingers to signal support of the bill, while the hosts turned their thumbs down in disapproval.

Hours before the legislation passed, a Sunset Park host’s lawsuit funded by Airbnb was filed in Manhattan federal court alleging that the mayor’s office retaliated against him for testifying last month against the bill.

Within a week of Stanley “Skip” Karol’s appearance before the council, he says, agents from the mayor’s office visited his home and issued four summonses totaling $32,000 in fines for violations.

Karol, who is disabled and rents the unused part of his home to host guests for short-term stays via Airbnb, claims in court papers that the city violated his constitutionally protected rights, including to free speech, by retaliating.

“I just want to be able to live in the home that I grew up in,” said Karol, 58, adding: “People have told me that they come to my home so they can experience living in Brooklyn with a middle-class guy and the American way of life. I have dinner with my guests. I go out with them. And I’m just trying to do the right thing by all of us.”


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