Risk & Compliance

Judge Blocks NYC Crackdown on Airbnb Rentals

“The City has not justified its sweeping capture of constitutionally protected records," the court says in granting Airbnb's request for an injunct...
Matthew HellerJanuary 4, 2019
Judge Blocks NYC Crackdown on Airbnb Rentals

A federal judge sided with Airbnb in a legal battle with New York City over a law that would force online home-sharing sites to disclose renter data to city officials.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayr on Thursday granted Airbnb’s request for an injunction barring the city from enforcing the law, finding it was likely that Airbnb and HomeAway, another home-sharing site, “will succeed in invalidating the ordinance as unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

“The City has not justified its sweeping capture of constitutionally protected records,” he wrote in his decision.

The law, which was passed unanimously by the City Council in July, would require home-sharing sites to disclose monthly detailed information about their listings and the identities and addresses of their hosts.

The city argued the disclosures would help it enforce a state law that makes it illegal for most landlords to rent an apartment for less than 30 days.

Other cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and London have taken similar steps in their efforts to regulate home-sharing sites but Airbnb and HomeAway challenged New York’s law, arguing it went too far by compelling them to turn over information in which they have a protected Fourth Amendment interest.

New York City is Airbnb’s largest domestic market, with more than 50,000 apartment rental listings.

Judge Engelmayr agreed with Airbnb that the city had overreached, noting that “A ruling upholding the ordinance as reasonable would invite municipalities to make similar demands on e-commerce companies, whether by legislation or subpoena, for the routinized production to investigative agencies of broad-ranging records as to all users or customers.”

Medical providers, he warned, could be forced “to produce all patient records for care rendered in New York City, on the premise that such records could assist in finding instances in which users engaged in up-coding and other health care fraud.”

The ruling “sends a strong message to other cities that the New York approach is not the way to go about doing this,” Roberta A. Kaplan, a lawyer for Airbnb, told The New York Times.