Is Airbnb Legal? Depends, But It Handed Over Records To New York Officials, So Time To Double-Check

Everyone's favorite way to make extra money has come under serious scrutiny: Airbnb is handing over their user records to New York state officials Wednesday. The database, which allows people to book or list unique accommodations around the world, came under fire last year when State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation into the legality of the company's short-term rentals in New York. This latest agreement will help provide transparency on the legitimacy of Airbnb's business in the state.

Also required in the agreement? Airbnb has to provide New York users with an informational page listing relevant state laws regarding multiple dwelling rentals, taxes, and zoning codes. And within a month, Airbnb will also have to start turning over its entire New York listings database to the attorney general. The anonymous users' identities will not be revealed, but if prosecutors suspect some of the hosts of violating state laws, the company will be required to provide detailed information, including the user's name, address, and tax ID number.

So, how legal is Airbnb in your state or place of residence? Well, the answer differs on where you are, but here's how you can find out...

  • Do a thorough background check on your renters; make sure they've been reviewed positively and check their references.
  • A key trait to look for in your visitor is discretion. If your guests are loud and your neighbors file a complaint, your information might get turned over to the attorney general's office even if you weren't violating any laws.
  • Make sure to talk to your landlord beforehand. If your lease prohibits any kind of hosting, then it's irrelevant what New York state law says. Always be transparent with your landlord and you'll avoid having to deal with someone higher up.

Airbnb and the attorney general's office issued a joint statement Wednesday:

Airbnb and the Office of the Attorney General have worked tirelessly over the past six months to come to an agreement that appropriately balances Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to protecting New York’s residents and tourists from illegal hotels with Airbnb’s concerns about the privacy of thousands of other hosts. The arrangement we have reached today for compliance with the OAG subpoena strikes this balance.

After six months of litigation, the agreement seems like a fair compromise — handing over the anonymized database will satisfy the attorney general's subpoena request for records, while protecting the users who have have shown no signs of violating state laws.

The unfortunate ones? Those who broke the law without realizing. Sorry, guys...