Airbnb Gets New Subpoena for Host Information in Probe

New York’s attorney general issued a revised subpoena in a tax probe of home-sharing firm Airbnb Inc. a day after a judge ruled a previous demand for information about the service’s hosts was too broad.

“The time has come for Airbnb to stop shielding hosts who may be violating a law that provides vital protections for building residents and tourists,” said Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Airbnb, based in San Francisco, lets customers rent a couch, bedroom or house from a host and makes money by charging a fee for each transaction. With listings in about 34,000 cities around the world, the company is said to be valued at $10 billion under a financing deal with TPG Capital.

Supporters say home sharing boosts local economies, while critics claim the practice reduces affordable housing stock and drives up rents.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Gerald W. Connolly in Albany said in a ruling May 13 that evidence in the case suggests there are hosts “regularly using their apartments to provide lodging to guests who may not be complying with the state and local tax registration and/or collection requirements.”

Connolly rejected Schneiderman’s demand for names, addresses and other information for all people in New York who made homes available through the service, saying it sought material that was irrelevant to the inquiry.

The new subpoena served yesterday was revised to address a “narrow technical matter” raised by the judge, Mittenthal said in an e-mail, without providing further details.

Housing Stock

In its challenge of the probe, Airbnb called the attorney general’s demand a “government-sponsored fishing expedition.” The company has said it has tried to purge “bad actors” who were abusing the service and supports policy changes that would enable it to collect and remit taxes.

“We are reviewing this new demand, but remain eager to work with the attorney general and we will continue to advocate for New Yorkers who simply want to share their homes,” Nick Papas, an Airbnb spokesman, said yesterday in a statement.

The case is Airbnb v. Schneiderman, 5593-2013, New York Supreme Court, County of Albany (Albany).

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