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Judge blocks New York law aimed at cutting Airbnb rentals

A new law could give New York City regulators the powers to crack down on Airbnb.Credit:AP

New York City council members voted 45-0 in July to restrict people in renting their apartments to tourists – a practice the city says raises rents, increases gentrification and disrupts neighbourhoods because short-term rentals can be more profitable than long-term leases.

Under the law, Airbnb and similar sites must turn over to the city the names and addresses of renters and say whether rentals are for a whole apartment or just a room – disclosures that would help the city enforce the law making it illegal for most landlords to rent an apartment for fewer than 30 days.

The decision is "a huge win" for Airbnb and its users, "including the thousands of New Yorkers at risk of illegal surveillance who use Airbnb to help make ends meet," company spokeswoman Liz DeBold Fusco said in an emailed statement. "The court today recognized the fundamental importance of New Yorkers' constitutional rights to privacy and the sanctity of their own homes."

Airbnb is facing resistance from regulators in Amsterdam, Santa Monica, California, and Reykjavik, Iceland, among other popular tourist destinations. The New York City law could give Airbnb-sceptical regulators around the world a straightforward playbook to copy as they seek to limit the company's influence.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City would ultimately prevail in the case.

"We think it's a good law," he said on Thursday. "This is a law to stop landlords from creating de facto hotels, which is unfair and illegal, which creates real security problems for neighbours."

Engelmayer said the ordinance is probably unconstitutional because it lacks a way for the companies to challenge a monthly requirement that they turn over user records.

"The ordinance does not provide for a neutral forum before which a booking service could argue, before a monthly production deadline, that the demand for user data was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment," he wrote in a 52-page decision.

Engelmayer ordered the parties to go forward with pre-trial evidence gathering and set a May 10 conference in the case.

Washington Post

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