Airbnb wipes 2,000 NY listings before court hearing

As the online vacation rental service prepares to go up against New York’s attorney general, it announces it scrubbed thousands of iffy listings.

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Airbnb

As Airbnb continues to battle it out with New York State lawmakers, the rent-out-your-home service announced Monday that it is permanently removing more than 2,000 New York listings that weren't going by the rules.

"These hosts weren't making their neighborhood stronger and they weren't delivering the kind of hospitality our guests expect and deserve," Airbnb head of public policy David Hantman wrote in a blog post. "In some cases, they were making communities worse, not better. We took a hard look at our community in New York to identify these hosts and we took action."

The hosts of these more than 2,000 listings can finish up their existing bookings but are prohibited from accepting any new reservations. Airbnb's process of wiping these listings began months ago.

Airbnb's listings removal announcement comes a day before the company is scheduled to appear in New York State Supreme Court regarding user data on thousands of its hosts. The case stems back to October when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a subpoena requesting Airbnb to divulge three years' worth of data on thousands of New York hosts.

Since the subpoena was issued, the company has said it will cooperate with New York lawmakers to root out illegal hotel operators and slumlords, but it won't turn over sweeping amounts of information on hosts who have done no wrong.

"Everyone in the Airbnb community, people who care about privacy and countless New Yorkers said enough is enough," Hantman wrote in a blog post on Sunday. "This attack on thousands of regular New Yorkers who occasionally rent out their homes was a wrongheaded waste of time and law enforcement resources."

Schneiderman's subpoena is based on a 2011 New York state law that makes it illegal for New York residents to rent out a property for less than 29 days. The law is meant to protect renters, so that slumlords don't force them to leave to make a quick buck on unlicensed hotels and short-term stays.

Hartman wrote on Monday that even though a small percentage of New York hosts have been "bad actors," the vast majority of hosts produce a positive effect on the city. He said that because of Airbnb, $768 million in economic activity will be generated in New York in 2014, along with 6,600 jobs and more than $36 million in sales taxes.

A New York State Supreme Court judge is scheduled to hear oral arguments from both the attorney general's office and Airbnb on Tuesday.

"The judge in this case could issue a ruling on Tuesday, or take weeks or even months to make up his mind," Hartman wrote on Sunday. "He could rule in our favor, or against us. He might ask the Attorney General to narrow his demand. If we are ordered to hand over any data, we will work to ensure you are properly notified before the government receives any information about you or your listing."

 

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