Home-rental startup Airbnb has ended a legal battle with New York City, its largest market.
Airbnb sued New York City and the state of New York in October, just hours after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill authorizing fines of up to $7,500 against those who violate the city’s short-term rental laws. The company dropped the lawsuit against the state but continued to spar with the city until the two sides reached an agreement on Friday.
New York City officials have made clear to the company that the fines will be levied against individual hosts who break the rules, not against Airbnb itself. Airbnb has also agreed to help enforce a “one host, one home” policy in New York that would limit hosts to only renting out one home.
Renting out vacant apartments for 30 days or less was illegal in New York City even before the new law. However, the new policy imposes liability on anyone placing advertisements for such illegal rentals, whether in print, television, radio, or online. Fines range from $1,000 for a first offense to $7,500 for a third offense.
“We very much see this as a material step forward for our hosts, with Airbnb and the City agreeing to ‘work cooperatively on ways to address New York City’s permanent housing shortage, including through host compliance with Airbnb’s One Host, One Home policy,’” Airbnb spokesman Peter Schottenfels said in a statement.
“As Airbnb knows, this state law does not target their company,” de Blasio spokeswoman Melissa Grace said in a statement. “Instead, it provides the City with an additional tool to use against those seeking to turn permanent homes into illegal, short-term stay hotels. The city will enforce this and other existing laws against bad actors, and appreciates the additional enforcement powers this new tool provides to protect New Yorkers and visitors from unsafe conditions.”
The New York Times described the deal as a victory for Airbnb opponents.
“This is an astounding about face on the part of Airbnb, which clearly recognized that this was a foolhardy and frivolous lawsuit,” said New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the sponsor of the bill. “I expect the city will now get down to the important business of enforcing the law against the serial lawbreakers on the site who turn affordable housing into illegal hotels. This is a win for everyone.”