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Jun 5, 2013

Why we're helping Nigel in New York

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about Nigel Warren, one of our New York hosts who was fined $2,400 by an administrative law judge. I stated our belief that this ruling was absolutely wrong on the law, and bad for New York.

I am pleased to report that we will assist Nigel and his landlord as they appeal this ruling. We may lose again before we prevail, but we intend to fight this ruling until justice is done.

Airbnb was not a party to the case (in fact, even Nigel was not a party to the case at first—it was his landlord who was cited). As a result, we could not appeal on our own, even though we did submit legal arguments. But now that Nigel and his landlord have agreed to let us support their appeal, we are in this for the long haul.

This case is very unusual, so we are still learning. Although the City often wins these cases at both the level Nigel just completed and the first appeals level (the Environmental Control Board, or ECB), we continue to believe that Nigel and his landlord are correct on the law and that the decision should be reversed. We know the road at first will be hard, so even if the City prevails at the ECB level, we will assist in the appeal to New York trial courts and beyond, if necessary.

This decision could not have more clearly shown that the New York law needs to be clarified and should be made more fair for regular New Yorkers who occasionally rent out their own homes to help make ends meet. In 2010, the State of New York passed a law designed to crack down on bad actors that operate illegal hotels—a goal we all share. Unfortunately, the 2010 law also had the unintended consequence of impacting regular New Yorkers.

Everyone agrees that average New Yorkers were not the target of the 2010 law, and I am pleased to note that recently, legislation was introduced in the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate to exempt from the 2010 law those individuals who are renting out their own homes. This is a great step towards fairness in New York, and we look forward to continuing this important discussion with legislators in the weeks ahead.

Since my last post, we got a lot of questions about New York law and what we plan to do for individual hosts.

While we did intervene in this case on a important point of law that seems clear to us, we cannot provide individual legal advice, and every case has its own specific facts. The laws governing different buildings in New York and individual rules put in place by co-op boards or leases vary. That is why we ask hosts in our 35,000 cities around the world to check the law in their own city and their leases as well.

But know one thing: we are committed to clearing the path as best we can for our hosts and the travelers who visit them. We will continue to fight Nigel’s ruling, and we continue to fight for a fairer, clearer New York law.

We know that by stepping up and fighting for Nigel and our community, we have made ourselves a target and will now face attacks in the press and from people who do not understand who our community really is. But the amazing activity that is happening in New York and other cities around the world is worth fighting for.

The sharing economy is here to stay, and so are we.

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