If you’re an artist, it’s pretty likely you’ve stayed at Airbnb at some point. It’s also likely that you’ve already broken the law. Here’s why: In New York it’s against the law to rent an apartment for less than 30 days. Otherwise, you’re running an illegal hotel.
That law has gotten the apartment-sharing service Airbnb in trouble with the New York Attorney General’s office. In October 2013, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena demanding user data, including e-mail and home addresses, associated with New York City’s 15,000 host listings. Essentially, Schneiderman’s looking for violations of the “illegal hotel” law.
This is the situation we’re in, but this week, Airbnb’s future began to look a bit brighter. On Tuesday, Airbnb gained a minor victory when the Albany Supreme Court struck down the Attorney General’s demands for user data.
Justice Gerald W. Connolly agreed with Airbnb that the subpoena “demand is unreasonably broad” and would interfere with user privacy. He went on to write that the current subpoena “seeks materials that are irrelevant to the inquiry at hand and accordingly, must be quashed.” However, he mentioned that a “substantial” number of hosts appeared to be in violation of the law.
The Attorney General Schneiderman told the New York Times he plans to issue a revised subpoena for user data within the next few days.
Though Airbnb gets to claim victory this round, Schneiderman seems poised for a game of cat and mouse. So who knows how long this will go on, while this “illegal hotel” law sticks around.
We’ve yet to hear artists mentioned in Airbnb’s court battles, but looking at how artists use Airbnb might help rebuff the idea that this apartment-sharing service in some way rivals hotels.
“I would be less likely to come as frequently or to stay very long if I had to rely on hotels,” artist Lorna Mills told us. She’s one of the most avid Airbnb users we know, visiting New York to attend exhibitions, her own and others.
She doesn’t see Airbnb as a hotel substitute. Hotels are just more expensive and, she added “it’s also very hard to find an affordable hotel room on short notice.”
For artists and freelancers, that might be the most attractive reason for using Airbnb. Exhibition and writing opportunities can come up at a moment’s notice, and whether you can afford it or not, it’s hard to find a hotel at the last minute. Without Airbnb, Mills and other artists simply wouldn’t visit as often.