Airbnb vs. New York: Share Economy Company Not Sharing With State Attorney General


airbnbAirbnb has won a legal battle against the State of New York.  The Supreme Court for New York cancelled the original subpoena by the State Attorney General demanding Airbnb provide information about its New York hosts.  In its decision and order (embedded below), the court disagreed with all of Airbnb’s arguments except the overly broad amount of requested information.  The Attorney General’s office has already announced plans to issue a revised subpoena.  I’ve written three previous posts in the saga of Airbnb vs. New York (post 1, post 2, post 3).  This controversy is just getting started.

Original Request Was Overly Broad

All of Airbnb’s arguments were rejected except one.  The court concluded there was cause to issue the subpoena, which is not a fishing expedition (page 7).  The subpoena is not unduly burdensome on Airbnb (page 9).  The laws being enforced by the Attorney General are not unconstitutionally vague (page 10).  The court also concluded the subpoena did not seek “confidential, private information”, noting Airbnb’s privacy policy specifically authorizes Airbnb to disclose requested information about hosts in response to subpoenas issued by law enforcement agencies (page 10).

New York’s Supreme Court explains its sole reason for quashing the subpoena on page 8 of the court order:

The subpoena, however, broadly requests information for all Hosts that rent accomodation(s) in New York State.  The Multiple Dwelling Law provides that its application is to cities with a population of three hundred twenty-five thousand or more (though other cities, towns or villages may adopt the provisions of the law) (Multiple Dwelling Law §3).  The subpoena, however, is not limited to New York City Hosts or those who reside in cities, towns or villages that have adopted the Multiple Dwelling Law, nor is it limited to rentals of less than thirty days… While [Airbnb] bears the burden of demonstrating that the subpoena is overbroad, as [Airbnb] argues, a plain reading of the subpoena in light of Multiple Dwelling Law §4 and the tax provisions and materials at issue meets such burden.  Based upon the foregoing, the subpoena at issue, as drafted, seeks materials that are irrelevant to the inquiry at hand and accordingly, must be quashed.

Airbnb’s Victory May Be Short-Lived

Addressing the court’s reason for canceling the original subpoena merely requires the Attorney General to reword the request.  Plans to immediately issue a revised request for information have already been announced by the New York Attorney General’s Office.  A likely scenario may be that Airbnb files another motion to quash immediately prior to the new subpoena’s deadline to comply.  However, that tactic would only delay the inevitable outcome.  The New York Supreme Court now understands the dispute between Airbnb and the Attorney General, having expressly rejected all of Airbnb’s other arguments.  The controversy between Airbnb, its hosts in New York, and the New York Attorney General is just getting started.


Share this post: