HABITAT

LEGAL/FINANCIAL

Hotel “Cartel” Behind Anti-Airbnb Laws

New York City

Hotel Lobby v. Airbnb

April 18, 2017 — Sophisticated lobbying campaign seeks to thwart home-sharing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill last October making it illegal to advertise short-term sublets. The move dismayed the tourists who flock to New York City by the millions, but it was applauded by many co-op and condo boards, who have developed a variety of strategies for weeding out illegal sublets, including the use of a burgeoning array of software offerings.

In February, a city landlord and a real estate agent were hit with the first fines under the new law, totaling $17,000. Meanwhile, three U.S. senators had gotten the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how short-term rental companies like Airbnb affect rising housing costs.

All the while, the New York Times reports, a powerful force has been pulling strings in Washington, D.C., Albany, and many other state capitals: the hotel industry's lobbyists. In a presentation in November, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a trade group that counts the Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt hotel chains as members, said the federal investigation and the New York bill were “notable accomplishments.” In documents obtained by the Times, the hotel lobbying group described its attack on Airbnb as a “multi-pronged, national campaign approach at the local, state and federal level.”

Airbnb, which is based in San Francisco, was founded in 2008 as a way for people to easily list and rent out their spare rooms or their homes online. Since then, about 150 million travelers have stayed in three million Airbnb listings in more than 191 countries, according to the company.

“Airbnb is operating a lodging industry, but it is not playing by the same rules,” says Troy Flanagan, the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s vice president for state and local government affairs. “We are trying to showcase and bust the myth that Airbnb supports mom and pop and helps them make extra money. Home-sharing is not what this is about.”

Nick Papas, a spokesman for Airbnb, shot back: “The hotel cartel is intent on short-sheeting the middle class so they can keep price-gouging consumers.”

As the skirmishing continues, it remains illegal in New York City to sublet your apartment for fewer than 30 days if you are not present.

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