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Airbnb To Hand Over Data On 124 Hosts To New York Attorney General

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the quasi-legal-operations-sometimes-have-consequences dept.

Businesses 149

Peer-to-peer lodging service Airbnb has agreed to hand over data on 124 of its hosts in New York as part of an investigation by the state's Attorney General into the operation of illegal hotels. The AG first requested data for almost all of Airbnb's hosts in the state, but after "legal wrangling," that number was whittled down to the current 124. The data in question will be unredacted personal information, meaning names and addresses. In a blog post, Airbnb's David Hantman said, "nothing about these hosting profiles suggests [the Attorney General] is after anyone but individuals who may be flagrantly misusing our platform." Airbnb is confident that the targets of this request are hosts considered to be "bad actors," but they don't explain what classifies somebody as a "bad actor."

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Definition of "bad actor" (2, Insightful)

haruchai (17472) | about 2 months ago | (#47745621)

It's whoever we say and whoever doesn't have the means to buy us.

Re:Definition of "bad actor" (3, Insightful)

ArmoredDragon (3450605) | about 2 months ago | (#47745631)

It's basically just politicians who are kowtowing to an industry that doesn't want more competition than it already has.

Re:Definition of "bad actor" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746583)

They're "kowtowing" to an industry that has to follow regulations and therefore feels at an unfair disadvantage to players that eschew regulations (fire safety, hygiene, registration requirements, etc.). With that perspective, it should be easy to see who the bad actors are in principle: People who run hotels without following the regulations under the disguise of renting out rooms in their homes. It says as much in the blurb. There certainly is a gray area, but 124 hosts in NYC looks like they're only going after obvious cases.

Re:Definition of "bad actor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746839)

And most of those regulations are only applicable at a particular scale or higher.

Those regulations also prevent competitors from getting in at the ground floor, thus ensuring larger players larger profit margins.

Give competition a chance. The AirBnB members haven't a shot against real hotel amenities somewhere like Manhattan. Sometimes a traveler doesn't need the flourish, let them get what they need for the price they're willing to pay.

Re:Definition of "bad actor" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746933)

Fire safety, hygiene and registration requirements are "not applicable" if you're running a small hotel? We're not talking about amenities like spa, wifi and a 24h reception. You can't put your guests in danger just so you can "get in at the ground floor" and compete with "real" hotels.

Re:Definition of "bad actor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47748431)

You can't put your guests in danger

Why not? If I'm a guest and I have an ounce of common sense I'll understand that I'm less safe than I would be at a full hotel.

I appreciate that you're trying to help us with these regulations, but we should have the option of dying in an unsanitary fire if we don't think your regulations are cost-effective. Residential fire codes and occupancy limits are already preventing external costs to non-participants.

Re:Definition of "bad actor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47748879)

The state doesn't care about your common sense, it cares about what it has to deal with, and that turns out to be a lot of bother when there's people dying in fires due to inadequate safety.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47745785)

Normally, they should be required to be in at least 1 "B" film. The closer the IMDB film score is to 1, the worse the actor, so more points are awarded the further they are from "B" film quality.

Bad actors? (0)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 months ago | (#47745625)

More like legal bullshit from last-century companies that need laws to protect them against innovation in order to stay competitive.

Re:Bad actors? (4, Interesting)

drolli (522659) | about a month ago | (#47745845)

No - there are always definitly easy to spot bad actors on such platforms. These can range from stupid assholes who want to rent out their garbage collection room, people who are acting like they ren something out in private, but in reality operate a full-scale business circumventing regulations and possibly taxes.

It seems that in NY there are 10000s of hosts. Figuring out the most criminal 1% of these has nothing to do with killing innovation but more wit doing a service to the customers (reputation for the hosts and safety for the customers).

Re:Bad actors? (0)

flyingsquid (813711) | about a month ago | (#47746273)

I was wondering what was going on here. The NYC subway is plastered with these "Air Bnb is good for New York advertisements", and the CEO/founder recently did an appearance on the Colbert Report. It's not so much a campaign to use the company as a PR campaign to create support, and you definitely got the impression that they were on the defensive, and now we know who they were on the defensive against.

It seems that in NY there are 10000s of hosts. Figuring out the most criminal 1% of these has nothing to do with killing innovation.

It has EVERYTHING to do with killing innovation. Think about it for a second, who benefits? The government is pushing this, but it's almost certainly at the request of the hotel industry who (correctly) see the innovation of Air BnB as a threat to their profit margins. The right wing is fond of arguing that government over-regulation is a major problem for businesses, and it's true. What they fail to mention is that this is often a result of other businesses, who lobby for legislation to regulate their competitors out of business. If you have a good lobbyist, government goes from being a hindrance to a giant hammer to crush your opponent. I guarantee you that NYC's many hotel owners did not sit back casually and go "hey, this new company is innovating to allow individuals to directly compete with us and cut into our profits. Good for them!" They've got lobbyists, and their only job is to talk to people in government to push for regulation favorable to their industry- and unfavorable to their competitors.

Re:Bad actors? (2)

drolli (522659) | about a month ago | (#47746319)

If that would be true, then lobyists who manage to reduce the competition by 1% probably would not be worth their money.

Re:Bad actors? (0)

thaylin (555395) | about a month ago | (#47746697)

The hotel industry in NYC is a 10billion a year industry. Preventing 1% of competition means approximately 100million in additional income, therefore unless they paid a whole lot for those lobbyists I would say they were worth their money.

Re:Bad actors? (2)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about a month ago | (#47746817)

124 "Bed n Breakfasts" may make up 1% of the number of hosts, but that is not the same as 1% of the market share.

Re:Bad actors? (0)

thaylin (555395) | about a month ago | (#47746937)

never said it did.

Re:Bad actors? (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about a month ago | (#47746991)

The whole thread in which I was replying to has clearly stretched from 1% of the hosts, to 1% of competition and now to 1% of market share with your previous post. I am just bringing it back around to remind people that we are talking about 1% of the Air BNB hosts not 1% of all the hotels (legal and less than legal).

Re:Bad actors? (1)

drolli (522659) | about a month ago | (#47747111)

a stupic calculation.

Preventing the worst 1% of market participatns from offering via a specific platform will never shift the market share of the whole market by 1%.

Addressing potential problems (4, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about a month ago | (#47746807)

It has EVERYTHING to do with killing innovation. Think about it for a second, who benefits?

The (probably few) customers who don't get scammed by shady "hosts". The neighbors who don't have to put up with living next to a de-facto hotel which the property is almost certainly not zoned for. The taxing authorities and by extension the local citizens who are probably not receiving the benefits of tax revenue they would otherwise receive. The normal hotels and their employees who lose revenue they likely otherwise would have received.

Just because something is new doesn't mean it is necessarily good. I don't have a problem with Air Bnb and I actually do wish them the best of luck but just because they think their product is "innovative" doesn't automatically mean it is a good idea. I can see potential problems with the service that are serious and need to be addressed in a more adult way than screaming "KILLING INNOVATION" to anyone who will listen.

Re:Addressing potential problems (1)

schlachter (862210) | about a month ago | (#47747927)

I've used Airbnb and never had a shady experience. Hosts have been friendly and hassle free. Places have been clean. I'm sure there are shady hosts out there but is it really so widespread?

Dangers of extrapolation (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a month ago | (#47748575)

I've used Airbnb and never had a shady experience.

So clearly we can extrapolate from your experience that no one ever has had or will have a problem... [/sarcasm]

Look, most people probably will never have a problem because most people are decent law abiding sorts. Those aren't who we are worried about. It's the few really bad ones that hurt, steal from or defraud or otherwise harm someone. If your experiences have been great, that is wonderful but that doesn't mean it isn't worth worrying about both for the visitor and the host. If you want to take the risks involved in using a service like AirBnB I have no problem with that but that doesn't mean there aren't some very important public health and safety considerations to address.

Re:Addressing potential problems (3, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | about a month ago | (#47748725)

I've had one negative experience with AirBnB. It wasn't terrible, more disorganized than dangerous, and it's only one out of over a dozen excellent experiences, but that sounds about right: a very small percentage of problems. 124 in New York City also sounds about right for the worst-of-the-worst.

In other words: no, not widespread, but if you can eliminate the few bad actors it increases overall confidence in the system. And if it decreases slightly the hostility from the industry they're trying to displace, it's better for the customer. The only losers in that are those who have been bad, and I just don't see anything wrong with that.

Re:Bad actors? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47745969)

People actually want hotels and motels regulated. A few reasons I can think of:

1. Most people don't want a motel to pop up next door. By that I mean they don't want you renting out your house in the neighborhood to random people. Ask a few homeowners what they think about someone turning their neighbors house into a rental (and that's medium term).

2. Most people don't want an actual motel within a mile or more of them. Again, it represents passers through. Also motels are notorious for crime and housing some unfavorable types, depending on the location, scale, and many other factors. But people fear the worst.

Okay, that's all I could come up with.

Re:Bad actors? (1)

cHiphead (17854) | about a month ago | (#47747475)

A house is your private property to do with as you see fit, including renting it out to whomever you wish. If you are worried about that sort of thing, live somewhere with a HOA.

Re:Bad actors? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47747669)

Your house is private until you treat it like a... what's the term? Oh yes, a Public House.

Re:Bad actors? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47747747)

No it isn't. If you are going to disrespect your neighbors and your community, you don't deserve that house.

Your reasoning is what allows people to turn their homes into junkyards and hoarded garbage collections while being a nuisance to everyone who lives nearby. Part of being civilized means functioning in a community, not a "It's my house, I do what I want" selfish attitude.

Re:Bad actors? (4, Insightful)

nblender (741424) | about a month ago | (#47748139)

It can be argued that bylaws and residential restrictions are a form of HOA.. It really should be "if you want to do whatever you want with your own property, live out in the country" but even in the country, there are rules about what you can and can't do. As long as you live near other people and services, there are valid restrictions about what you can and can't do with your private property. Suck it up, buttercup.

Re:Bad actors? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746083)

What innovation? Renting out your room or apartment is not new or innovative. Connecting supply and demand using the Internet is not new or innovative. What's innovative about AirBnB and Uber and the likes is figuring out how to do something blatantly illegal to gain a competitive advantage over legitimate businesses that do follow rules and regulations (which in many cases exist for very good reasons), without getting immediately shut down.

Bad actors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746239)

There are lots of bad actors [addressreport.com] in Manhattan alone. I just spotted Tom Cruise and Bill Murray.

Re: Bad actors? (1)

raind (174356) | about a month ago | (#47747535)

Is Bill a scientogist also?

Re:Bad actors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47747425)

Ahh the mantra of the uneducated trying to sound like they know what they are talking about.

Of course they'll downplay it.. (-1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 2 months ago | (#47745653)

This is the type of thing that destroys innovative businesses like AirBNB. Nobody will want to play host if government starts targeting and fucking over the 'bad actors' who may just be regular people using a service. AirBnB has all the interest in the world to play the situation down as much as possible..it'll be interesting to see what really happens here.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (4, Insightful)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 2 months ago | (#47745675)

depends on the situation. There is government being overly strict/arseholes, then there is government doing what it is supposed to do, which is ensuring hotels are all following the regulations required for hotels. If they are doing the former then it sucks, but I suspect it is the later they are chasing. I personally find it hard to fault them if what they are doing is chasing people that are blatantly ignoring the laws for insurance, health and safety etc when it comes to hotel accommodation.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1, Insightful)

Rick in China (2934527) | about a month ago | (#47745757)

It's similar to Uber's situation with individuals providing rides in their own vehicles to people who want rides. Do you think that a private arrangement between two individuals to allow someone to stay in a room or apartment or whatever belonging to another in exchange for some cash means that the room/apartment or whatever needs to abide by the same heavy regulations as a hotel? The government has 2 pressures and incentives here: hotel/lodging lobbyists, not getting their tax revenue. If you really think they're doing this from a perspective of public safety, I think we'd just have to disagree.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (4, Informative)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a month ago | (#47745919)

Do you think that a private arrangement between two individuals to allow someone to stay in a room or apartment or whatever belonging to another in exchange for some cash means that the room/apartment or whatever needs to abide by the same heavy regulations as a hotel?

As soon as money changes hands it is no longer a "private arrangement". When you charge for a place to stay you are now a hotel unless it is on a month to month basis then you have a roommate. If you are providing the same service as a hotel you are operating a hotel. It is not a "public safety" issue.

For example, someone renting an apartment but never living there and only renting short term through Airbnb is a bad actor. First, they are running a one room hotel with lower regulatory costs than a hotel. Second they are probably doing it against the lease. Third, they have little incentive to ensure that their tenants are following noise restrictions. Fourth, they are removing a rental apartment from a probably already tight rental market.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about a month ago | (#47745947)

I think you're describing the problems with big government regulation squeezing regular people. You're saying that if I make arrangements with someone to allow them to stay in a spare room and they give me $30 a night, I need to adhere to all regulations a full fledged hotel would have to. I say that, while what I'm doing may be illegal in the strictest sense, it shouldn't be - and adhering to the same regulations as a hotel in such a case is beyond ridiculous. I say that the scenario above SHOULD be a *private arrangement*, and the fact that you think it isn't is part of the problem.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (4, Insightful)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a month ago | (#47745971)

There are some who rent out a room in their home occasionally. With proper regulation that should be allowed. There are others who rent apartments specifically to rent out as a short term rental. These are the ones that need to comply with the complete hotel rules. Registered bed and breakfasts have to comply with ruled why shouldn't Airbnb poster have to comply with those regulations as well?

You're saying that if I make arrangements with someone to allow them to stay in a spare room and they give me $30 a night, I need to adhere to all regulations a full fledged hotel would have to.

Are you paying taxes on the income? Do you have adequate parking for that tenant?
Will you say a different story when someone is burned to death because there was no fire alarm system which a hotel is required to have but a private residence is not?

There are two different scenarios we are talking about; spare room rental and short term apartment sublet. The former should be allowed with minimal regulation. The latter needs to be watched very closely.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about a month ago | (#47746055)

There are two different scenarios we are talking about; spare room rental and short term apartment sublet. The former should be allowed with minimal regulation. The latter needs to be watched very closely.

I agree with this completely.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (2)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about a month ago | (#47746137)

Will you say a different story when someone is burned to death because there was no fire alarm system which a hotel is required to have but a private residence is not?

That's just a ridiculous argument. Apartment buildings are required to maintain fire alarm systems, have fire escapes, fire extinguishers, etc.

Unless you are saying the requirements for a hotel are safer, in which case why not regulate so that everyone can live in a fire safe dwelling?

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month ago | (#47746269)

Unless you are saying the requirements for a hotel are safer, in which case why not regulate so that everyone can live in a fire safe dwelling?

The requirements for a hotel should be stricter. If you are renting a room for the night, you should not have to check the batteries in the fire alarm. If you have a three year lease on an apartment, it is reasonable for that to be your responsibility, rather than the landlords.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about a month ago | (#47746677)

OK, but in both cases you need a fire alarm, right? And in neither case is someone legally allowed to disable the alarm, right?

I still don't see any difference.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (2)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a month ago | (#47746941)

OK, but in both cases you need a fire alarm, right? And in neither case is someone legally allowed to disable the alarm, right?

I still don't see any difference.

From the post you're replying to:

The requirements for a hotel should be stricter. If you are renting a room for the night, you should not have to check the batteries in the fire alarm. If you have a three year lease on an apartment, it is reasonable for that to be your responsibility, rather than the landlords.

Add to that that hotels have mandatory annual inspections, with a fire inspector who walks through and checks all of the alarms and extinguishers. You don't do that in your apartment, I'm sure, and yet it's something a hotel tenant relies on.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about a month ago | (#47747627)

Yeah see that's something that wasn't said in the original post and you're taking bits and pieces of reality and making specious arguments based on them.

It's reasonable to say that, whereas with a rented apartment the tenant has certain things they need to do, a person renting a hotel room should have less of these given the transient nature of his renting.

So, while I buy my own toilet paper in my flat, for instance, I would be quite annoyed if I showed up at a hotel and they told me you have to buy your own toilet paper (or lightbulbs, or any number of things).

However that's all sort of implied in the rental contract, and whether you're renting for long term or short term.

But, no where is it said hotels have to have smoke detectors / alarms / etc but apartments not. In the same way that it's not required for hotels to have lights, and apartments not.

Really this whole argument is specious. It's very simple:

a. The bigger your building, the more fire equipment needed
b. For very big apartment buildings, you have the same sorts of precautions as in a hotel. When I lived in a tower in Boston, we did actually have a fire marshall come through to test our alarms.
c. Hotels tend to be the size of very big apartments (see point a). This in no way means hotels must have fire equipment whereas apartments not. If you end up at a small bed and breakfast, you might find it is not equipped with the same fire equipment as a tower.
d. If you are renting out your apartment short term like a hotel, you must maintain it. If you rent it out long term, like a flat, the tenant maintains it. But this is a separate issue, and in no instance is someone allowed an exception to the fire code.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a month ago | (#47748283)

If you are renting out your apartment short term like a hotel, you must maintain it. If you rent it out long term, like a flat, the tenant maintains it. But this is a separate issue, and in no instance is someone allowed an exception to the fire code.

If the short term rental is not licensed and regulated then what is there to guarantee that this maintenance is done? Also, many apartments are not required to have a sprinklers while almost all hotels are required to have them.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about a month ago | (#47748359)

I'm pretty sure this is based on building size not the fact that you're a hotel.

I lived in a tower in boston, and they had an integrated smoke detection system (don't burn something at 03:00 am you'll wake the neighbors), a fire marshal who checked everything was working on a regular basis, sprinklers, fire extinguishers in the hallway, etc.

A few days ago I was in London, and stayed in a B&B. It was an old building, and there might have been smoke detectors, but there wasn't a fire escape I could see, and I would have burned alive if there was a fire.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a month ago | (#47748293)

One major difference is that long term tenants know the building and can get out faster. Second long term tenants have the choice of installing alarms and sprinklers. Do you think the lack of sprinklers would be advertised on the Airbnb listing?

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a month ago | (#47746853)

Are you paying taxes on the income? Do you have adequate parking for that tenant? These are the kinds of concerns that really get to me. First, you basically have to report all income over a certain amount. I know there was a story a few years back where a bunch of people got busted for running businesses off of eBay and not paying their taxes. It doesn't matter how they run their business. That doesn't mean that people shouldn't be allowed to use eBay at all because their are some bad actors. There are businesses that are traditional brick and mortar businesses who don't pay their taxes either

Also, who cares if they have parking for the tenant. Maybe the tenant doesn't even have a car. I saw something like this on a real estate reality show a year or so back. Somebody wanted to rent out their basement to a tenant and had to get their driveway widened to allow there to be adequate room for parking or it wouldn't meet code for having a tenant. If they want to limit their selection of tenants by not having parking then that's their business. But hotels shouldn't be required to have parking for tenants, especially in a place like New York city, where nobody drives anyway.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a month ago | (#47748377)

It doesn't matter how they run their business..

I have a small craft business and I am required to have a local license to sell in some craft shows. I think that room renters need to as well.

If they want to limit their selection of tenants by not having parking then that's their business.

Who makes sure that they "limit their selection of tenants" if they are not licensed or regulated.

But hotels shouldn't be required to have parking for tenants, especially in a place like New York city, where nobody drives anyway.

Many tourists from the North East try to. They drive in and park their vehicles.

It is a public safety issue (5, Informative)

Camael (1048726) | about a month ago | (#47746147)

As soon as money changes hands it is no longer a "private arrangement". When you charge for a place to stay you are now a hotel unless it is on a month to month basis then you have a roommate. If you are providing the same service as a hotel you are operating a hotel. It is not a "public safety" issue.

This summary is inaccurate - it is a "public safety" issue. In the Nigel Warren case where he rented out his room on Airbnb [nytimes.com] in NYC, the judge levied a fine of fine of $2,400 [time.com] after ruling that they were operating an unlicensed hotel.

The law on which the decision was based, Bill S6873B-2009 [nysenate.gov] states:-

JUSTIFICATION:

The Multiple Dwelling Law and local Building, Fire and Housing Maintenance Codes establish stricter fire safety standards for dwellings such as hotels that rent rooms on a day to day (transient) basis than the standards for dwellings intended for month to month (permanent) residence. There are substantial penalties for owners who use dwellings constructed for permanent occupancy (Class A) as illegal hotels. However, the economic incentive for this unlawful and dangerous practice has increased, while it is easier than ever to advertise illegal hotel rooms for rent to tourists over the internet ... It endangers both the legal and illegal occupants of the building because it does not comply with fire and safety codes for transient use.

I.e. The reasoning given for the law was to protect public safety, specifically to ensure compliance with fire and safety codes.

Re:It is a public safety issue (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about a month ago | (#47746229)

I.e. The reasoning given for the law was to protect public safety, specifically to ensure compliance with fire and safety codes.

I have to say that my thought on this is 'Why?'. Why is the fire code stricter for a hotel than an apartment? I can see it if the density is higher - More people packed into a smaller space means that without taking extra measures evacuation will take more time. Such measures can mean things to slow fires down like sprinklers, fire walls and such as well as additional exits, larger hallways and fire escapes to accommodate more people. I can also see more signage - presumably everybody in an apartment complex will have a good idea about all the exits, less so for short term dwellings.

Re:It is a public safety issue (2)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about a month ago | (#47747205)

Because transient residents are not intimately familiar with the fire escapes and layout of the building. Smoke compartments must be smaller, low-level exit signs are generally required (so someone can see them when crawling), and requirements for secondary exits are different. And... you must post a sign at the door indicating exit locations.

I am torn on the issue; in a place like San Francisco or NYC, the issue of taking units out of the rental pool is quite serious. This becomes worse where you have rent control. On the flip side, it is nice to have options when you stay in a place without sufficient traditional lodging offerings. Bed and breakfast establishments aren't really my cup of tea personally, but having a small apartment or house for a few days can put you more in the center of a community.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (2)

bloodhawk (813939) | about a month ago | (#47745961)

It's similar to Uber's situation with individuals providing rides in their own vehicles to people who want rides. Do you think that a private arrangement between two individuals to allow someone to stay in a room or apartment or whatever belonging to another in exchange for some cash means that the room/apartment or whatever needs to abide by the same heavy regulations as a hotel? The government has 2 pressures and incentives here: hotel/lodging lobbyists, not getting their tax revenue. If you really think they're doing this from a perspective of public safety, I think we'd just have to disagree.

YES I do think they should abide by the same rules as in order for insurance to be valid and cover you they must also be following the rules. This is the reason I would never use Uber here in Australia as while an accident is unlikely I like knowing I am insured against such an event and in most Uber drivers sharing you are definitely NOT covered. Similiarly if I am paying for accommodation I want to know that they are meeting minimum health and safety requirements and also have appropriate insurance.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746857)

http://blog.uber.com/uberXridesharinginsurance

Oh, really?

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about a month ago | (#47748583)

Yes really. It has been stated by both the insurance industry and government in Australia that Uber drivers are NOT insured here unless they have a commercial license and corresponding commercial insurance as it is illegal to offer for hire services without a public transport license and insurance is invalid when you are operating outside the law

Sometimes yes (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a month ago | (#47746845)

Do you think that a private arrangement between two individuals to allow someone to stay in a room or apartment or whatever belonging to another in exchange for some cash means that the room/apartment or whatever needs to abide by the same heavy regulations as a hotel?

In some cases the answer will be yes. If I found my out my neighbor had turned his house into a de-facto hotel, I would likely be pretty upset and rightly so. That potentially affects me and my property so you better believe I'm going to want a say in the matter. Furthermore there are various important liability, safety and taxation concerns that need to be addressed before any sane person should give a blanket go-ahead.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about a month ago | (#47746919)

It stopped being a private arrangement when it started being facilitated by a 3rd party.

Better than uber, in this situation these people can easily squat and the home owner would have to go through the full eviction process ... Which means in some locations that you can't have them removed for at least 90 days! And no, changing the locks while they are out isn't legal either.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47745683)

It isn't innovation to simply ignore local accommodation laws. If ignoring the law is innovation then I think a lot of people would like their prison sentences reduced as after all they were just innovating.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47745695)

To encourage innovation, the thing to do is at least temporarily ignore the silly local laws such as this and give the innovative company a chance to get settled. Once they are established, hash everything out and get providers licensed, taxed as normal.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (3, Insightful)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a month ago | (#47745805)

Just because you think a law is "silly" does not mean that it is. All you are doing is giving a newcomer a financial advantage over established businesses. So when the new business harms the old business and can not handle the additional taxes and regulations when they are imposed you have less supply not more.

Re:Of course they'll downplay it.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746535)

To encourage innovation, the thing to do is at least temporarily ignore the silly local laws such as this and give the innovative company a chance to get settled.

I agree. When does my free ignore the law end for, say, breaking and entering and grand theft?

Just wondering.

Also, your idea is terrible and you should feel terrible. If the laws cause undue hardship, they need to fucking go. Not be danced around at the whim of e-hipsters. But that'd just fly in the face of masturbating over excessive government, I guess.

Avoid New York (4, Insightful)

NaCh0 (6124) | about 2 months ago | (#47745667)

Every time I see a story like this or the problems Tesla has in NY, I can't help but think of the "New York is open for business" commercials flooded on the TV news channels. One of the most taxed and regulated states in the nation claiming to be business friendly.

Fuck Noo Yawk.

Re:Avoid New York (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47745879)

Exactly. The Republicans here claim to be pro-business, but all they do is shove laws down our throats to prevent competition.

Re:Avoid New York (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746625)

*cough* your AG is a Democrat.

*cough* your state legislature has a massive Democrat majority (~110 out of 150 members) in the Assembly, and a tiny Republican majority (32 out of 63 members?) in the Senate.

*cough* your Governer is a Democrat.

Yes, tell us more about how those evil Republicans are crushing your poor widdle throats with anti-competitive laws and enforcement.

You're a hoot.

Re:Avoid New York (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746665)

Really? One of the most blue cities in the country, and you're talking about the republicans?

Re:Avoid New York (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746925)

They're still blaming Neroberg for everything.

Neroberg is the RINO of RINOs. He's the White RINO.

Re:Avoid New York (1, Offtopic)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a month ago | (#47745955)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but New York is @#$^% rich! So they must be doing *something* right.

Re:Avoid New York (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746335)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but New York is @#$^% rich! So they must be doing *something* right.

Location, location, location, same as silicon valley. It has nothing at all to do with laws or culture.

Re:Avoid New York (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746621)

Your definition of '$rich', varies greatly from mine, my friend!

Also, I'm sure 'rent control' has NOTHING to do with the matter!

Re:Avoid New York (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47747765)

Regulations keep people safe from dishonest businessmen, taxes help keep the economy working.

Only dishonest businesses suffer under taxes and regulation.

Re:Avoid New York (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a month ago | (#47748019)

Every time I see a story like this or the problems Tesla has in NY, I can't help but think of the "New York is open for business" commercials flooded on the TV news channels.

New York is well known for its tradition of aggressive Attorney Generals and
that State has done more for consumer protection than most States' AGs combined.

Your complaints (Tesla, Airbnb) are with the existing laws, not the AG who makes sure they are enforced.

Just what constitutes a bad actor? (2)

Artifakt (700173) | about 2 months ago | (#47745677)

I know of one actual Bed and Breakfast that takes in normal clients through one set of ads, and runs other ads in BDSM magazines and such and serves as a dungeon for that clientel. They apparently rely on not scheduling people who don't know what's in the basement at the same time as those who do or something like that - maybe weekends are for whipsters. Is it possible this counts as a "bad actor"?
            Or what about people who are subletting property they only rent, against their rental agreement? Not that that's right, but I could certainly see the New York state authorities focusing only on those cases and ignoring a lot of owner landlords who rent out unsafe property, or worse, the ones who use goons to frighten or actually beat people who are protected from price increases by rent control, to force them to break their leases and free the property to be rented at a higher rate. Leaning on little old ladies is a pretty blatent kind of 'bad acting", but is it even on the radar in this case, or is it all about getting the low hanging fruit of renters who generally can't afford lawyers rather than landlords who can?.

Re:Just what constitutes a bad actor? (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about a month ago | (#47745901)

Lots of apartments in NY are rent-controlled. I once lived in an apartment for $500 a month (it was a really crappy one, I could hear a neighbor 2 floors up). Somebody was also Airbnb-ing an apartment in this house for $80 a day.

Re:Just what constitutes a bad actor? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47745943)

That's just arbitrage taking care of market inefficiencies in the form of government-mandated rent control. If the rent were at market value the profit made from renting it out (less operating expenses) would be nearly a wash.

That said, I'm not a fan of these stupid "social" companies like airbnb, uber, et al. They are really only less expensive because they are in violation of regulatory overhead. The honest solution is to determine whether the regulations we have are desirable. If not, abolish them. If so, comply. What would the savings be if airbnb, lyft, etc complied in a free market? The monopolies must be broken, but dammit, I expect a roach free room and a mechanically sound taxi.

PS. I love how my cell phone consistently autocorrects "uber" as "unethical". Damn straight.

New slogan! (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a month ago | (#47746603)

I think you may have just hit on the next advertising masterpiece:

I expect a roach free room and a mechanically sound taxi.
For everyone else, there's Lyft and AirBNB.

Re:Just what constitutes a bad actor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746639)

Having used Uber before, I've found that the cars that pick me up are, if anything, more "mechanically sound" than the yellow cabs I still take on occasion. I'm well aware of the dangers of extrapolating based on a handful of personal experiences, but most people I know who've used Uber that I've spoken to have noted the same things I have.

Conversely, I've gotten into cabs where it's obvious that the suspension is completely wrecked, the brakes are squealing, the muffler sounds like a goddamned sherman tank... it's not as if the regulations are doing much to prevent cars like that from picking up passengers - so why do we have the regulations, again?

Just what constitutes a bad actor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746267)

What's unethical about renting out rooms to SMers and to normal people? As long as they clean up properly, I don't see anything wrong with it. Anyway, you don't have control over what your guests use the room for, nor should it matter.

The problem wasn't the BDSMers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746383)

It was the potentially unlicensed activity in an unsafe basement I'd imagine.

Big different hosting in a club that's met fire safety, etc standards and a basement that was never certified to begin with.

If it *WAS* on the other hand, then no harm no foul. But I assume that's what GP was discussing. Repurposing areas in a manner that they were never certified for.

The other bit was probably just a reference to the bad publicity if you had some normal people wander downstairs, say to use the laudry room and either walking in on something they'd find offensive and publicize, or accidentally put in a call to the cops thinking something violent was going on.

Re: Just what constitutes a bad actor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47747457)

You can't spell whipster without hipster!

Thank you, big government... (3, Interesting)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 2 months ago | (#47745727)

...for establishing a system of competition based on government regulation rather than quality of goods and services. I'm sure harassing 124 small time hosts will help the big players, who line the pockets of politicians with contributions, scare off hundreds more. And of course, since New York has no other crimes to look into, this is a perfectly prioritized use of limited prosecutorial resources. /sarc

First we had the #warondrugs, now we have the #waronunlicensedhotels?

It's about hotel taxes (3, Informative)

HoppQ (29469) | about a month ago | (#47745751)

I believe it's essentially about someone running what is essentially a hotel without paying the taxes that hotels are supposed to pay.

See http://www.balloon-juice.com/2... [balloon-juice.com]

Re:It's about hotel taxes (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a month ago | (#47745941)

well yes, it's about that.

which makes the debate more about if a room for rent -literally- is a hotel - and why it's not a hotel if the guest stays for a month..

Re:It's about hotel taxes (2)

khchung (462899) | about a month ago | (#47745959)

well yes, it's about that.

which makes the debate more about if a room for rent -literally- is a hotel - and why it's not a hotel if the guest stays for a month..

How about the simple fact that most tourists staying in a place for just a few days usually won't bother to go to authorities if there is something wrong with their rooms? As such, to protect the reputation of a city, they have to regulate the hotels that primarily target tourists?

If you are going to stay in the same place for a month or more, it is likely you will find out anything wrong in the first week, and you would more likely report it to police as you still have to stay for weeks there. Plus, people usually do more research when spending more, such as where to spend the money to stay a whole month or more, including possibly a prior visit in person for longer stay.

Not so for a hotel you probably going to stay just one night. Any problem you found in the night, you are leaving the next day and not coming back to that city again anyway. That would allow bad hotels to stay in business for quite a while, damaging the reputation of the area and hurting tourism for everyone else.

America being as it is, doing more to drive away tourists than promoting it, it is not surprising that most Americans have no idea how important it is for tourism to maintain a certain minimum standards on the hotels in the area. Next time you go on a trip to another country, talk to the hotel manager how many regulations they have to comply, you would be surprised how regulated they are for your safety and enjoyment.

Re:It's about hotel taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746061)

Or you could let market forces take care of that for you. If a hotel is shitty you may not call the police, but you will leave bad reviews online. People will flock to competitors with fewer bad reviews. The degree to which the hotels will compete on superior service will be commensurate with the market value of lodging in that city (so in New York, which has strong attractors, there will be stiff competition between hotels to avoid bad reviews...).

Sure the market won't always be perfect, and its actions aren't always prompt, but the market *will* correct any real problem like this. The government, on the other hand, is absolutely sure to do this as inefficiently as possible. Who's on what hotel's board of directors, and how is he related to the local commissioner in charge of hotel and restaurant licenses? What lazy idiot on the government dole who can't possibly be fired whether he does his job promptly or not is responsible for managing inspections? How about the other guys that do enforcement? ...

Re:It's about hotel taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746103)

You mean, instead of solving real problems, you would rather just sprout out some idealist "free market" crap and rely on blind faith?

We all know bad reviews worked sooooo well for sites like Yelp, right?

Yeah, right. You Americans keep doing that, while the rest of the world will do what works instead of relying on faith and ideology.

Re:It's about hotel taxes (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about a month ago | (#47746241)

Provided you don't get Carbon Monoxide poisoning from a faulty heating system for example. In England, I know that if there is a problem with that, I contact the local council's Environmental Health department, not the police, if there is a problem with that. I've no idea what the rules are in other countries were I go on holiday.

Re:It's about hotel taxes (1)

CauseBy (3029989) | about a month ago | (#47749029)

That's what it's about, and that's what it should be about.

Pay your taxes. Stop trying to invent clever ways to avoid taxes. When you do that, you are fucking me, and I don't appreciate it, and it makes me support a heavy-handed government. If you don't like heavy-handed government then stop being a tax cheat.

There are no bad actors (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47745755)

at the Bates Hotel

marketing (-1, Offtopic)

rajaab (3796727) | about a month ago | (#47745793)

http://4pics1word.co.in/ [4pics1word.co.in]

Re:marketing (0)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a month ago | (#47746151)

Go fuck yourself with your spam links.

Re:marketing (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a month ago | (#47746357)

I'm guessing my last comment lost a point due to some sockpuppet mod account of yours. So let me repeat it: "Go fuck yourself with your spam links." I can do this all you like. Get fucked.

Re:marketing (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a month ago | (#47746359)

The referenced domain lists usman_khalid143@yahoo.com [mailto] in its contact information. I wonder how long that email account will stay live.

Bad actor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746149)

Keanu Reeves is a bad actor. Did he get busted?

It's not about taxes (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746161)

During the last year of negotiations with the NY AG (Eric Schneiderman), AirBnB offered to remit taxes on the hosts' behalf, as they have done in other markets (such as San Francisco). The AG rejected this proposal. Why? Because it's not about taxes, it's about killing any possible competition the large hotels in NYC face. In fact, Schneiderman has surrounded himself with people who have heavy ties to the hotel industry, and has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from hotel lobbies.

It's inconvenient, but it's true. The NY State government's actions are, yet again, predatory and anticompetitive.

One Bad Actor definition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47746519)

A lot of these Bad Actors are people renting out 10, 20 and more rooms at a time. They are basically removing residential space from the city and pushing up rental prices

Re:One Bad Actor definition (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a month ago | (#47746593)

So, they are Economic Heroes, satisfying a need in a market as all free people are free to do.

I am sure they will conjur some other reason, like they didn't bribe inspectors his month like everybody else.

Re:One Bad Actor definition (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a month ago | (#47746611)

Wish I had mod points for this. This is exactly the situation that crosses over. The idea of AirBNB was you rent out your personal, surplus space. If you've got more than a single living unit on an ongoing basis, it's not surplus private living space.

Look back to why the laws were there originally (3, Interesting)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | about a month ago | (#47746759)

Vast generalization here (I'm not a legal scholar)- but it looks like laws have been put in place to 1) encourage something viewed as good by the legislature or 2) discourage something viewed as bad by the legislature. What is viewed as "good" or "bad" is up to the legislator, the folks that the elected the legislator, the folks that the legislator represents, and most important to our current system of campaign finance, the folks that pay for the legislator's campaign. Airbnb is ostensibly a mechanism to allow people to profit from use underutilized space. Unfortunately some of the underutilized space is contained in clauses in lease agreements that the Airbnb hosts chose to ignore.

The hotel laws were put in place because of abuses. Rent control was put in place because of abuses and to encourage affordable housing. The "bad actors" are those that are abusing the system at the potential risk to their customers- and they are customers, not guests. Because of the immense amount of money moving around, there will be abuses and bargains. Leave it up to a company to determine the bad actors, and they will invariably call out those that pose the greatest risk- and since it is a profit driven company, risk is about money, with no consideration given to public welfare (ostensibly the government's arena).

NYC Resident Here (5, Informative)

hirschma (187820) | about a month ago | (#47747295)

People forget that there is another side here - the NYC resident. Consider that there's likely several people within 20 feet of me at any given time - this is the reality of big city living.

What AirBnB means to me is a diminished quality of life.

It means "guests" rolling in at 2am, feeling the need to open and close every door and cupboard (and waking up my household). Ringing my bell accidentally at all hours. Using AirBnB to find one-night party space. Smoking everywhere.

This is all from one apartment directly above me. If I complain to NYC, it means that they're sued to death and evicted (which I'm sorely tempted to do, but the punishment is very harsh). If I don't, I have to live in a noisier, less enjoyable circumstance.

And yes, I've taken the time to ask the folks upstairs to be more considerate. Their response? "It's our right", even though it's against the law.

AirBnB sucks.

Re:NYC Resident Here (3, Interesting)

inject_hotmail.com (843637) | about a month ago | (#47748193)

So you have these options:

1. Do nothing,
2. Ask them to stop again (politely, with or without warning about going to authorities),
3. Ask them to stop again (not politely, with or without warning about going to authorities), and
4. Go straight to the authorities.

My recommendation? Go straight to the authorities. You've been polite, and you do not deserve to suffer as they benefit. Make no mistake, the only reason they are doing AirBNB is to profit. You have every right not to suffer a 'diminished quality of life' (as you, very succinctly I must say, put it) just so they can put an extra, what...$30 a day(?) in their pocket.

Strictly speaking, anyone operating an AirBNB rental is operating a business. They are providing a service/resource to those who are willing to pay. Is an expense to that business paying the people around him to allow him to do so? Maybe (we as a society seem to endorse the idea of a 'money to QoL' ratio). So, my next question is this: is Mr. Ignorant claiming that income on his income tax? I imagine not. That might be more legal leverage you have in this case. (Side note: little do most people know that if you legitimize a business, a huge array of tax incentives start rolling in (proportionally expense your Internet, heating, electricity, computers, vehicle, etc).

I wish you the best of luck in your quest.

Re:NYC Resident Here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47748503)

I'd suggest option 2.5: demand that they pay $1-30/day for the decreased value of the apartment, and if they refuse go straight to the authorities. If they can't afford to pay for the costs they impose on others then they have no right to operate a business at all.

Re:NYC Resident Here (3)

grahamsz (150076) | about a month ago | (#47748793)

You could always exploit the review system of airbnb to force a change.

Whenever their guests are quiet you can flip the tables and go knock on their door at midnight. Tell them "[landlord's name] said you've have shit ready for me". Once they get a few reviews of "Strange people show up in the middle of the night maybe trying to buy drugs" it should in theory sort itself out :)

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