Airbnb, the specialist short term renter has announced that it is suing the city of New York.
The move is a response to a law passed in July, that legally requires the company to share hosts’ names and addresses with the authorities on a monthly basis. Airbnb claims that the new law requires the disclosure of detailed personal information from landlords that is both unconstitutional and exposes the private information of its clients to undue scrutiny by government agencies.
The move by New York City Council officials is however a direct response to recent statistics that estimate as many as two thirds of Airbnb listings in New York are technically illegal.
The new law makes it difficult for Airbnb to continue to operate its business as usual, acting as just a intermediary, in New York City. Under New York law, it is illegal for landlords to rent out entire apartments for less than 30 days.
This is a problem for Airbnb as the company typically caters to short term renters such as vacationers.
Airbnb’s lawsuit argues that the provisions in the new law violate both aspects of the U.S. Constitution and the New York State Constitution: “[T]he Ordinance is an unlawful end-run around established restraints on governmental action and violates core constitutional rights under the First and Fourth Amendments” Airbnb’s suit says, also calling the law “an extraordinary act of government overreach.”
The stakes are high for Airbnb. New York City is the single largest market within the continental USA and when similar legislation was passed in San Francisco the number of listings there decreased by half, almost overnight. Airbnb now works with the city of San Francisco to register its hosts.