A State Supreme Court judge has quashed Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's subpoena for Airbnb user data. In a 12-paged decision (below), Judge Gerald W. Connolly ruled that the AG's subpoena was overly broad. Schneiderman's subpoena had sought to compel Airbnb to turn over an Excel spreadsheet:
identifying all Hosts that rent Accommodation(s) in New York State, including: (a) name, physical and email address, and other contact information; (b) Website user name; (c) address of the Accommodation(s) rented, including unit or apartment number; (d) the dates, duration of guest stay, and the rates charged for the rental of each associated Accommodation; (e) method of payment to Host including
The Attorney General is intent on holding Airbnb accountable for violations in the state's Multiple Dwelling Law, which prohibits apartment dwellers from renting out their entire apartment for less than a month. But Judge Connolly ruled that the subpoena "is not limited to New York City Hosts or those who reside in cities, towns or villages that have adopted the Multiple Dwelling Law," and therefore overbroad.
Connolly rejected most of Airbnb's other arguments, however, and the ruling does not dispute that "a substantial number of hosts" are violating the law, so we're sure this isn't last we've heard from Schneiderman on Airbnb.
The Attorney General's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but earlier today Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer released a letter she sent to Mayor de Blasio urging him to "reject Airbnb’s business model and fight its efforts to legalize the now illegal use of apartments for commercial use." The letter reads, in part:
In our city of apartment-dwellers “one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” and we share our lobbies, hallways and elevators with our neighbors. Hotel occupancy, where public areas of a building are in fact “public” and populated by transient strangers, is a very different way of living. New Yorkers who have chosen, and by their leases contracted, to live in residential buildings have the right to quiet enjoyment of that condition, and the protection of the laws that define such housing. In addition to the dangers and nuisances posed by Airbnb’s business model, the illegal hotel industry keeps substantial numbers of affordable housing units off the market. Many tenants, seeking additional income, avail themselves of Airbnb’s services and put themselves at risk of eviction.
In a statement, Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said, "This decision is good news for New Yorkers who simply want to share their home and the city they love. Now, it’s time for us to work together. Airbnb hosts and the Attorney General share a common goal: we all want to make New York a better place to live, work and visit. We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General's Office to make New York stronger for everyone."
UPDATE: Here's the statement from Attorney General Schneiderman's spokesman Matt Mittenthal: "The judge’s decision specifically found evidence that a ‘substantial’ number of Airbnb hosts may be violating the tax laws and the law that prohibits illegal hotels. This comes as no surprise, given that Airbnb itself removed some 2,000 New York-based listings from its site. Our office is committed to enforcing a law that provides vital protections for building residents and tourists alike. The judge rejected all of AirBnb’s arguments except for a narrow technical issue, and we will reissue the subpoena to address it."