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New York’s Airbnb Ban Is Bolstering a Rental Black Market

As few as 2 percent of New York City’s previous 22,000 short-term rentals on Airbnb have been registered with the city since a new law banning most listings came into effect in early September. But many illegal short-term rental listings are now being advertised on social media and lesser known platforms, with some still seemingly being listed on Airbnb itself. The number of short-term listings on Airbnb has fallen by more than 80 percent, from 22,434 in August to just 3,227 by October 1, according to Inside Airbnb, a watchdog group that tracks the booking platform. But just 417 properties have been registered with the city, suggesting that very few of the city’s short-term rentals have been able to get permission to continue operating.

The crackdown in New York has created a “black market” for short-term rentals in the city, claims Lisa Grossman, a spokesperson for Restore Homeowner Autonomy and Rights (RHOAR), a local group that opposed the law. Grossman says she’s seen the short-term rental market pick up steam on places like Facebook since the ban. “People are going underground,” she says. New York’s crackdown on short-term rentals has dramatically reshaped the vacation rental market in the city. People are using sites like Craigslist, Facebook, Houfy, and others, where they can search for guests or places to book without the checks and balances of booking platforms like Airbnb. Hotel prices are expected to rise with more demand.
After the rule change, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said the company would be shifting attention away from New York, which was once its biggest market.

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New York City Finally Proposes Strict New Regulations for Airbnb Rentals

Under proposed rules that were quietly and unexpectedly made public on Friday — which will, among other things, prohibit hosts from renting out an “entire registered dwelling unit” — Airbnb hosts will be required to submit diagrams of their apartments as well as proof that their listings are permanent residences. Hosts also will be required to list the “full legal name of all permanent occupants of the dwelling” as well as their relationship to the host….

If hosts fail to comply, they can be fined up to $5,000 under the new rules, while Airbnb and other platforms are required to verify the rental on its systems and could be on the hook for a $1,500 fine per violation. Last year, the city council passed the registration law, but little was known about the details and requirements, which will become effective Jan. 9 and enforced by May 9….

Among the requirements, said the source, is one that bars hosts from putting locks on doors that separate the guest from the host, directing that “a registered host shall not allow a rentee to have exclusive access to a separate room within a dwelling” and specifying that, for example, “providing the rentee with a key to lock the door when such rentee is not in the dwelling is prohibited….”

It’s the latest salvo in the fraught relationship between New York City and Airbnb, which has long pushed back on the city’s efforts to regulate the industry. Meanwhile the city blames Airbnb, in part, for its housing shortage.

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Airbnb ‘Surveillance Bugs To Make Sure Guests Behave’

“So this is creepy,” writes a Forbes cybersecurity reporter, saying Airbnb “has put aside the stories of hosts secretly spying on guests” to promote a new line of devices Forbes calls “surveillance bugs to make sure guests behave.”

“… we’re hurtling toward a world where almost everything we own is monitoring us in some way, and I’m not sure that’s actually going to be a safer world.”

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Airbnb Has a Hidden-Camera Problem

Airbnb’s rules allow cameras outdoors and in living rooms and common areas, but never in bathrooms or anywhere guests plan to sleep, including rooms with foldout beds. Starting in early 2018, Airbnb added another layer of disclosure: If hosts indicate they have cameras anywhere on their property, guests receive a pop-up informing them where the cameras are located and where they are aimed. To book the property, the guests must click “agree,” indicating that they’re aware of the cameras and consent to being filmed.

Of course, hosts have plenty of reason to train cameras on the homes they rent out to strangers. They can catch guests who attempt to steal, or who trash the place, or who initially say they’re traveling alone, then show up to a property with five people. A representative for Airbnb’s Trust & Safety communications department told me the company tries to filter out hosts who may attempt to surveil guests by matching them against sex-offender and felony databases. The company also uses risk scores to flag suspicious behavior, in addition to reviewing and booting hosts with consistently poor scores.

If a guest contacts Airbnb’s Trust & Safety team with a complaint about a camera, employees offer new accommodations if necessary and open an investigation into the host. […] But four guests who found cameras in their rentals told The Atlantic the company has inconsistently applied its own rules when investigating their claims, providing them with incorrect information and making recommendations that they say risked putting them in harm’s way. “There have been super terrible examples of privacy violations by AirBnB hosts, e.g., people have found cameras hidden in alarm clocks in their bedrooms,” wrote Jeff Bigham, a computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon whose claim was initially denied after he reported cameras in his rental. “I feel like our experience is in some ways more insidious. If you find a truly hidden camera in your bedroom or bathroom, Airbnb will support you. If you find an undisclosed camera in the private living room, Airbnb will not support you.”

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