Airbnb says New York renters should pay occupancy tax, pushes for looser hotel laws
After successfully overturning a fine against one of its New York City users, Airbnb is trying to preempt any future legal attacks. In a blog post today, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says that he supports formal rental taxes, like those charged for hotels, as long as local regulators are willing to work on a law that makes Airbnb's business legal. Currently, New Yorkers can only host guests when someone is at home — Airbnb only got the fine overturned, for example, because the host's roommate was still there. But this rule undercuts the service's business model, and it's frequently ignored.
"We want to work for sensible laws that allow New Yorkers to share their space," says Chesky, laying out a three-point plan. Firstly, he wants an unassailable right for people to rent homes without worrying about the "illegal hotel" laws that currently limit Airbnb. If they're allowed to do so, "we believe that it makes sense for our community to pay occupancy tax, with limited exemptions for those who earn under certain thresholds." Currently, Airbnb asks users to submit tax information, but it largely leaves reporting up to them. To address concerns that guests couldn't be held accountable for causing problems, he also promises to set up a hotline that will let neighbors report disturbances.
Uber, another startup that's been similarly controversial in New York, has successfully negotiated for the right to operate, and Airbnb could do the same. Taxes, however, aren't the only issue people have raised. Most of the people hosting guests won't own the apartments or houses they're renting out, and State senator Liz Krueger has warned that using Airbnb puts them at risk of eviction. New York's hotel lobby, meanwhile, has consistently opposed the service's operation.