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New York Bill That Would Fine Airbnb Landlords Passes Key Hurdles

Jun 17, 2016

New York legislators are no fans of illegal home-sharing on Airbnb.

On Friday, legislators in both the state senate and assembly passed a bill that would make it illegal to advertise short-term rentals that violate New York City's rules that prohibit rentals for less than 30 days. Those who violate the law could be fined up to $1,000 for their first violation, and up to $7,500 for a third.

The bills, which were introduced by Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal and Staten Island Senator Andy Lanza, are currently awaiting for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto or sign it into law.

"The bill says: You can’t advertise an illegal activity,'" Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who supported the bill told the Wall Street Journal. "I don’t know what the big confusion is."

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"It's disappointing -- but not surprising -- to see politicians in Albany cut a last minute deal with the hotel industry that will put 30,000 New Yorkers at greater risk of bankruptcy, eviction or foreclosure. Let's be clear: this is a bad proposal that will make it harder for thousands of New Yorkers to pay the bills," Josh Meltzer, Airbnb's head of New York Public Policy, said in statement.

"Dozens of governments around the world have demonstrated that there is a sensible way to regulate home sharing and we hope New York will follow their lead and protect the middle class," he added.

Home-sharing service Airbnb, which lets people list a room or their entire home for rent (often on a short-term basis), has had a difficult relationship with New York regulators. The company has long been under fire for enabling some hosts to run illegal hotels in New York City, though Airbnb has maintained that most of its hosts are simply renting out extra space in their homes while they're out of time for a short trip.

In 2014, after a long battle with New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Airbnb handed over anonymized data for some of its listings. Then in December, the company shared anonymized data about almost 60,000 listings in all five boroughs with government officials. The catch, however, is that the data is only available by appointment at Airbnb's New York City office. Later, the company also admitted to removing 1,500 listings before making that data available after a pair of outside researchers suspected the company had manipulated its data.

Earlier on Friday, prominent members of New York City's tech community, such as investor Fred Wilson, who recently helped form advocacy group Tech:NY, expressed opposition to the bill via Twitter.

Others like Paul Graham, who co-founder prominent startup accelerator program Y Combinator, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, also tweeted opposition to the bill.

Even actor Ashton Kutcher, who has been investing in tech startups over the last few years, joined in.

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