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Study finds 66 percent of NY's Airbnb listings may be illegal

A dive into Airbnb's listings reveals an interesting breakdown of the dwelling types available on the site, according to data-crunching firm Connotate.


Some number crunching based on Airbnb's listings online revealed that two-thirds of the New York properties available on the site probably are probably illegal, travel site Skift reported Thursday.

Skift asked Web data firm Connotate to break down Airbnb's 19,521 unique listings using what was on the site. The company found that 15,678 unique hosts were renting out properties in New York, 88 percent of which have only one listing. Though there's no guarantee that all the hosts live in the property they're renting -- as New York law requires for most areas -- this could bring a ring of truth to Airbnb's statement that 87 percent of its hosts rent the place where they live.

But Connotate also found that the most popular type of listing on Airbnb is for an "Entire home/apartment" which assumes that the host won't be present for the rental period. Those types of properties account for two-thirds of the listings. Since New York doesn't allow short-term housing, that could mean hosts are renting out those properties illegally.

Connotate also identified what it thinks is Airbnb's most popular listing, a $99 private room on the Upper East Side that has 174 reviews. Check out more of the number-crunching here.

The figures add to the controversy of Airbnb's battle with New York's state laws. Lawmakers' drive to reduce short-term housing has made Airbnb an easy target, given the company's untraditional model. While the peer-to-peer rentals have given users a way to make money from their spaces and travelers another housing option, they aren't regulated by hotel laws and that's made officials nervous.

Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who has been continually critical of Airbnb's practices, decided to weigh in on the numbers. (She can't wait until the state's attorney general gains access to Airbnb's data.)

"If these are the numbers that Skift and Connotate could glean from scraping data from Airbnb's web site and making a few educated guesses, it's a cinch that when the Attorney General wins access to the data Airbnb is fighting in court to keep hidden from the public, what he finds will paint an even starker picture and show even more systematic illegal activity than Skift's analysis today," she said in a statement.

Updated, 2:49 p.m. PT: Added Sen. Liz Krueger's statement.