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Lawsuits filed by Airbnb and 3 hosts over NYC’s short-term rental rules dismissed by judge

By Associated Press
Published: August 9, 2023, 7:46am

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge on Tuesday dismissed lawsuits filed by Airbnb and three hosts over New York City’s rules for short-term rentals, saying the restrictions are “entirely rational.”

In a 14-page ruling, Supreme Court Judge Arlene P. Bluth said having to comply with a registration system does not present an “overly onerous obligation” to the company and hosts. Such a system, she said, will help identify many illegal short-term rentals before they’re listed on the Airbnb platform.

“To be sure, these rules will likely not be perfect,” she added. “But it addresses a problem raised by OSE (New York City Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement) and avoids a key obstacle — enforcing the ban on illegal short-term rentals.”

A city official cited thousands of illegal short-term rentals when defending the new rules in court, noting 43,000 on just Airbnb in 2018. The city received nearly 12,000 complaints regarding illegal short-term rentals from 2017 to 2021.

New York’s 2022 ordinance requires owners to register with the mayor’s office, disclose who else lives in the property, and promise to comply with zoning, construction and maintenance ordinances.

San Francisco-based Airbnb has called the restrictions “extreme and oppressive” and a de facto ban against short-term rentals that left the company no choice but to sue.

“Taken together, these features of the registration scheme appear intended to drive the short-term rental trade out of New York City once and for all,” Airbnb said in June. The company said the mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement “failed to consider reasonable alternatives.”

Asked to respond to the court’s decision, Theo Yedinsky, global policy director for Airbnb, on Tuesday evening said the city’s rules are “a blow to its tourism economy and the thousands of New Yorkers and small businesses in the outer boroughs who rely on home sharing and tourism dollars to help make ends meet.”

“The city is sending a clear message to millions of potential visitors who will now have fewer accommodation options when they visit New York City: you are not welcome,” he said in a statement.

Debbie Greenberger, an attorney who represents the three Airbnb hosts who sued the city in a companion lawsuit, said in a statement that her clients are disappointed in the ruling, arguing how the city’s rules “go after regular New Yorkers instead of illegal hotel operators.” She called on city officials to allow Airbnb hosts to rent out their own homes on a short-term basis “in order to be able to afford to live in this increasingly unaffordable city.”

The city is expected to begin enforcing the law on Sept. 5. A message was left seeking comment with the city’s Law Department about the judge’s ruling.

Airbnb sued New York state in 2016 over a ban on advertising short-term rentals. It dropped that lawsuit when the city promised not to enforce it. In 2020, Airbnb settled a lawsuit against the city over monthly reporting requirements for its listings. Airbnb said the 2022 ordinance violates both settlements.

The New York restrictions are among many efforts by local communities to regulate short-term rentals without banning them. New Orleans is among cities taking on the rental giant after a court struck down a previous law.