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A Warning for Airbnb Hosts (nytimes.com)
142 points by trauco on Nov 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 176 comments

The rules serve a lot of purposes:

1. To protect hotel owners and operators.

2. To protect consumers. They are guaranteed that the hotel has proper insurance, for example.

3. To protect neighbours. You can't open up a hotel in the house next door for much the same reasons that you can't open a pub or an aluminum smelter.

4. And yes, there is some rent seeking behaviour. I'll just mention transient accommodation taxes.

You may agree or disagree with the various laws to various degrees, but you must admit that they exist for a reason. By all means discuss reforms that can be made, but please stop with the "these laws are stupid" or "serve no purpose" sort of sentiments.

>You may agree or disagree with the various laws to various degrees, but you must admit that they exist for a reason. By all means discuss reforms that can be made, but please stop with the "these laws are stupid" or "serve no purpose" sort of sentiments.

How about this: "These laws do not exist in most places and those places haven't descended into anarchy, nor have they suffered any visible damage because they don't have them. Therefore it might be reasonable to suspect these laws aren't needed".

Your premise is flawed. Transient accommodation laws and zoning rules exist throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. I am left to assume they exist in many other places I am less familiar with.

I'm unaware of any such law covering short-term subleases in Canada. By "transient accommodation laws", are you speaking about hotels with hundreds of guests, or on an individual short-term sublease level?

Under the BC Residential Tenancy Act, a sublet requires the permission of the landlord though the landlord cannot refuse without good reason. I suspect there are minimum lease lengths, however, or you will indeed fall under transient accommodation (hotel) laws. Regardless, even if I am wrong about that, if you sublet your apartment on anything more than a casual basis, you are running a business. Then, you will almost certainly fall afoul of zoning rules and probably be subject to hotel rules as well.

Alberta law is similar; I don't know about any other province, but I would be surprised if there were substantial differences.

Except they do exist in most places, in one form or another. Can you point to some places that don't require hotel operators to submit to some kind of licensing / regulation?

These laws aren't new - UK lodging laws go back several hundred years.

If they go back several hundred years then they probably have more to do with rent-seeking than consumer protection, and if that is in fact the motivation for their existence, then they should be eliminated.

Are you saying that based on any fact, or just a personal bias? Do you have any familiarity with fire laws or lodging regulations?

An individual offering a short-term sublease is not equivalent to a hotel operator offering tens or hundreds of rooms. Can you point out why you'd equate the two?

Small operators are generally regulated as well, at least in most places. There were small lodging operators (1-5 rooms) long before there were huge hotels.

If you run a bed & breakfast (<10 rooms, generally) you are still subject to regulations that a private homeowner would not have to comply with.

It's not just about size. Yes, if someone buys an apartment with three rooms and rents out two of them on a continual basis they should be treated as a hotel. But if they rent out a room on occasion then it's not the same situation.

As a customer, should I expect less protection and safety because of how often the room is rented when I'm not there?

Unfortunately, it's impractical if not impossible to regulate behavior based on _frequency_ unless you're going to continually monitor the activity.

And this, folks, is the breath taking arrogance the article mentions.

This is highly specious reasoning. I would guess the vast majority of American municipalities have far fewer regulations in gun possession that NYC, and despite the number of tragic stories that you hear, virtually all of these municipalities are quite civilized and pleasant.

So by your reasoning, the gun laws in NYC aren't needed.

"So by your reasoning, the gun laws in NYC aren't needed."

There are people who say they aren't. The ones in NYC are fairly reasonable though, even if they seem to just mainly cost a lot of money and paperwork for a tiny niche of hobbyists. There are nice shooting ranges in several parts of the city proper though. Unfortunately I moved to Chicago, which has much more crime despite absolutely absurd gun laws.

"the gun laws in NYC aren't needed."

That's right. They aren't.

It's always a mystery to me why people just assume that criminals are going to pay attention whatsoever to gun laws.

Not to get into a gun control debate here, but my point was that it is ridiculous to argue for the circumvention of the legislative process just because things seem to work in other places. As the saying goes, all politics is local.

That said, to address your rhetorical point...it's not just about hardened criminals. It's not an either or situation...there's many types of states between evil criminal and innocent civilian. Just as suicide barriers and other inconveniences actually deter suicides...even though you think that anyone who would commit suicide would bypass them...gun control laws deter those who would commit gun crimes just because they had a gun at the moment.

I'll give you a concrete example. In NYC, I've seen pedestrians and cyclists kick and punch cars that nearly run them over...and this is not an uncommon sight during rush hour, this is something I almost NEVER saw anywhere else...because in those places, you had to worry that the driver was legally carrying a gun.

In NYC, of course, the driver could conceivably have a gun...but you know what, that is a very unlikely situation, because it is not worth carrying a gun in the event that you get pulled over for a traffic infraction. And so those who might commit a crime out of hotheadedness are significantly inconvenienced by gun control laws...reducing the chance that any hothead fight results in gunfire.

And in a city as tightly packed as NYC, that is not a non-trivial benefit. I haven't been in favor of gun control laws in any of the rural areas I've lived, but in NyC, I realize it's a different situation that requires different thinking on the laws.

The laws certainly do exist in most places where airbnb is used most (ie, NY, SF, other big cities).

Yet the success of airbnb means that there is strong need to amend or extend these laws. After all, it's a different kind of lodging in which the consumer accepts nonstandard services for a smaller fee. At this point, the airbnb model has gained enough momentum to be unstoppable by local lobbies.

Currently, especially in europe, airbnb seems to be borderline legal for people who don't own licences. Inevitably airbnb will have to find common ground with local authorities, instead of relegating the issue to individual users. After all it's in their interest.

How much of that success comes from the existing industries inefficiencies and how much from skirting legitimate costs like insurance, hygiene, inspections, and local government's travel bureau taxes?

#1 is "a purpose" but not a good one. If hotels can't compete with Airbnb renters then that's their problem (assuming the regulatory playing field is level, which it may not be)

I think you misunderstood what I mean by protect. The laws set clear rules on what a hotel must provide. If the hotel follows those rules, they are protected from a lot of potential legal consequences. Or, to put it another way, the rules lay out a clear set of expectations that everyone can rely on. Airbnb owners are not protected in the same way because they are not (legally defined) hotel owners.

This sense of protection -- ie, to be protected from the government -- is probably not the best use of words. Its akin to a protection racket (pay me and i won't hurt you).

That being said, its still a valid point...hotel customers need "protection" from unscroupulous "hoteliers" becase, for example, they are tourists from a foreign country or small-town USA etc and are thus less sophisticated and make easy prey (historically) for scam-artists (bait ans switch rooms, or general hold-up probelms, etc).

The Interesting question is this: Does the transparency and accountability of Online provide adequate protection? If it does not, does it have the potential to? Back in the day (like, pre-ww2) its easy to imagine things going on in hotels that hurt clients but were "behind the scenes" with no proof other than he-said-she-said. But now we have e-mail, terms of service, electronic booking, CCTV and other things that might change the calculus a bit--at the public policy level.

Open for debate, at least.

Wow . . . I am doing a bad job of keeping my message clear.

Yes, of course, I mean protected from the government, but I also mean protected from customers, and protected from less scrupulous competition (which may be uncomfortably close to the point that tlrobinson was trying to make, but you have to understand that the airbnb owners are generally not following the same rules that the hotels are required to).

I am just waiting for the first time someone gets sued because they didn't post the rates and a map to the fire escape on the back of the door.

No worries, "consumer protection" laws and "protection racket" are quasi-idomatic expressions. [1] e.g. even here in your example of the fire: its true that not-breaking the law "protects you" from being prosecuted. But the law itself (ie=must show fire escape) is called a "consumer protection" law (ie, by idiom). Its not on the books to keep the hotelier out of jail...it's on the books to keep the consumer from dying in a fire because s/he gets lost =D/.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiom

It's not just protection from scams. What about the hygiene of the linnens? The fire escapes? Are there sprinklers in these rooms like there are in hotels? Is the room secured from intruders?

This is interesting, in the sense that the question is two-fold; (1) how much disclosure is needed; and (2) are there any special protections for short vs long terms?.

Arguably a sub-letted property needs to be habitable (landlord to let), so this should be ~covered. And with "yelp" style reviews hopefully discloure is possible (ie, are the linens Ok or is there mold etc). But there are some things that have health considerations...cross-contamination, rodents, etc. And who is responsible? Is this OK at "caveat emptor"?

These are interesting fundamental questions about how much its possible for private contracts to work with/out Gov't regulation. Its exciting to think about ways to solve these problems (ie, not just gloss them over) with technology rather than with politics/bureaucrats, etc. That is: if it is possible, or not.

No, consumer reviews are a replacement for safety inspections. The morbid side of me says "dead men post no reviews". But the real problem is how many people would need to be hurt (financially or physically) before enough reviews got out? If its one then a seller could be held hostage by a single bad review(legitimate or otherwise).

This is where the abnb model seems to have an angle: if you are part-time subletting, the interest in the person living there full time is to keep a livable place. so if the FT lessor is paying 2K a month and lets his house 3 days a month, the 3 days are much more likely to be OK (~= to the other 27). The problem in one sense, is with "absentee" or professional landlords, who don't live there and have the "skin in the game". On that end of the spectrum, hotel licences seems to make a more compelling case (consumer might want an inspection if he cant trust the landlord would live in the place himeself).

So should you be allowed to have any overnight guests in your home?

These same arguments apply to family and friends coming for a visit and crashing at your place. Or to a kid's sleep-over for that matter.

(I am not a lawyer, but probably you aren't either, so at least we are on a level playing field ;P.)

> From your mother-in-law to the UPS delivery guy, when someone else sets foot on your property, you could be liable if they’re injured, whether you did anything to cause the injury or not.


Due to the US notion of "join and several liability", one would imagine in such cases that both the renter and the landlord would be sued by the guest, and in the end it would likely be the landlord (who probably moves larger amounts of money) that would end up paying, requiring them to get it back from the renter.

I imagine this is one of the reasons (in addition to situations involving squatters, etc. <-) why many rental agreements actually have limits on the ability for you to even have guests that stay for more than a few days at a time more often than every few weeks or months.

Those people don't pay for the privilege, and they are people you already know. You aren't providing a service in exchange for payment.

The situations really aren't comparable - in the same way that (topically) giving a ride to a friend isn't comparable to running a taxi service.

Those examples are not commerce, and therefor not relevant. Should the USDA regulate your garden? How about the vegetables in a grocery store?

Further to your question: Hotels in Rhode Island are required to post in each room that if you put your railroad mileage books (among other things) in the safe, the hotel is not liable for loss of said property. These laws were first drafted in the 19th century.

General Law 5-14-1 covers: "any money, jewels, jewelry, watches, ornaments, railroad mileage books and tickets, bank notes, bonds, negotiable securities, and precious stones"

Framing it as an absurd, antiquated law is hardly charitable.

This is a little harsh, although this is good info/context. The salient nugget is that the laws are ones that are both old do not get updated often. It would be more fair to say words to the effect that "the counter-argument is they have withstood the test of time". But the fact that they still write "railroad mileabge books" instead of "Transportation Tickets" or some-such, is indicative of the lack of iteration. At least at first glance, to an outsider. Nothing against RI.

It does suggest that looking at these laws en-toto and updating them for modern living (lifestyles, technology, etc) might warranted. And that updates might-be net-beneficial to society. Its not clear they need whole-sale revision thought.

We're going through this now with e-mail and cloud privacy laws that are out of date, too. Its not just a cheap shot at one state or one industry.

Your argument here might be relevant if people are falsely led to believe that they are, in fact, doing business with a hotel, rather than a private individual with a residence.

We already have laws that govern private contracts between individuals, protect private property, and protect individuals from being an undue burden on one another.

The common law of contract and tort is essentially the history of existing laws proving inadequate to forestall unwanted outcomes.

I #1 is not so much to protect "hotels" so much as to protect "property owners". Suppose you rent out your condo; do you have the proper insurance to engage in that activity? After all, insurance is just another form of betting. When you rent out your stuff, as the owner, what types of protections do you have from renters.

I've never understood this analogy. Isn't insurance the exact opposite of betting, with a small fee tacked on? It ideally eliminates chance.

#3 is definitely a problem for many as well.

These regulations are definitely not stupid. Hotels keep detailed records of who checked in and out which can be used by law enforcement. If people are allowed to sublease their places they would have to build a similar infrastructure else it will become easier to evade law enforcement.

Airbnb provides the infrastructure, withholding much more information than a typical hotel frond desk.

The only protection a hotel operator gets here is protection of their business model. Governments should not generally be in the business of favoring one business model over another, or of passing laws that protect models from the march of time. See also: Uber, copyright extension act.

> 1. To protect hotel owners and operators.

Who gives them the right to protection?

Who gives [hotel owners] the right to protection?

We do, because we struck up a deal with them that obligated them to pay fees and comply with onerous regulations to ensure public safety. We have, in effect, a contract with them. If we want to amend the terms of that contract, we amend the law.

Who is We?

I never signed a contract.

Who gives you the right to protection?

Hotel owners, operators, and employees are all represented, tax-paying members of our society. What exactly makes them unworthy of protection moreso than yourself?

they are professional real-estate investors. your analogy is like saying invetment bankers and vc's need protection from their clients or entreprenuers. while they do need (and are entitled to) equal protection to support bilateral contract, its not clear they need protection laws in the sense of "consumer protection"==which is protection given in the public interest to allow 'naive' parties to trust 'sophisticated' professionals.

That's an embarrassingly reductionist viewpoint; it's hard to think of a profession that can't be considered a professional investor of some form or another.

What's embarrassing about it is that you obviously don't grok the difference between investors and speculators. An investor is someone who spends time and money on something in the hopes that its growth or development or even upkeep will eventually provide a return. This is almost always a good thing. A speculator --- like an investment banker or VC --- leverages capital to place bets, and any good that comes from those bets is an unintended consequence.

You will have a very hard time reasoning about most of western civilization if you start from a point that equates all investment with speculation.

I think you are clearly mis-reading what I am saying. Laws apply (thanks to the constitution) to all people individually, equally. That being said, there are levels of abstractions about why laws exists (ie, public policy rationales). Most rules are not written to tilt outcomes toward the more sophisticated, specialized market participants (although undoubtidly some are in practice if not theory). On the contrary: If information assymetry exists, they exist more often to obviate it (ie, the general securities laws). None of this has to do with what you seem fixated on (grok the difference between investors and speculators).

As an AirBnB host, I do not ask for ANY protection from hotels. Let them do their thing, and I will do mine.

I have zero sympathy at all for renters facing eviction for housing Airbnb tenants. Those renters aren't being bitten by outdated regulations. They signed a contract that spelled out their obligations to the owner of the building, and the boilerplate version of that contract says that you can't add tenants (or replace your own obligation as a tenant during the term of the lease) without the owner's express approval.

I love Airbnb. I have had nothing but good experiences with them directly and I hope they succeed beyond their wildest imaginings. But if you're a renter, not an owner, and letting your place out on Airbnb without checking your lease, you've reneged on a contract. Not a shrink-wrap or click-through or EULA, but an ink and paper contract that every tenants rights group in the country tells you to read carefully.

The one time I've been in civil court ever was with a landlord; I have had nothing but bad experiences with landlords and think poorly of virtually every one I've had. But the flip side of that is, if I expect landlords to be compelled into making repairs or returning security deposits, I have to hold up my end of the contract as well.

Airbnb shouldn't have to warn renters to read their damned leases.

Don't the landlords put these clauses in their contracts to conform to mandatory laws (like zoning)? If that's the case, then it seems like a bit of a stretch to consider that a voluntary agreement.

I'm really curious if there is a difference legally between giving the entire apartment to a guest for a week and letting the guest sleep in a spare bedroom.

If you read carefully, a lot of leases have specific clauses about guests too.

There are limits in different jurisdictions about how enforceable some of these clauses are. But subletting contracts tend to hold up.

Can you loophole around it by renting out someone else's apt and having them rent out yours on a quid pro quo basis?

This means that the person staying in your home is not a friend of a friend and no longer a customer. It ceases to be a sublet, and is now you housing a friend's friend.

Intent is there. But it gets you off the hook for breaking the contract. It instead puts you on the hook for inducing someone else to break a contract, which is a harder case to prove.

My roommate actually had an issue with this. He had a friend from out of town stay with us for a week or so without notification of the landlord. The terms of the lease were notification of overnight guests, and they couldn't stay longer than a week without written approval.

This is especially ironic in light of the post-Sandy NYC-AirBnB "partnership":

"Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Airbnb today announced the launch of a new platform to help connect victims of Hurricane Sandy with free housing options. Airbnb is now providing a platform to connect those who are eager to offer free housing to those who have been displaced by the storm."


I don't see any irony. Allowing someone to stay in your home as a guest is not the same as being paid for lodging. If AirBnB was there to facilitate people to open their homes for non-paying guests, none of this would be a problem. Although renters who rent out rooms outside of their landlord's permission are just asking for an eviction.

That was very much not the idea. People renting their apartments were in charging.

Why is this "ironic"?

Or are you saying that if BP steps in with a generous donation of gasoline supplies during a natural disaster, the government should give them more leeway in environmental regulations?

'A situation is often considered to be ironic (situational irony) if there is an "incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result."' (wikipedia)

Right...so it would be ironic if the city banned airbnb as an operator. But that's not what's going on here. People are being punished for breaking laws, Airbnb is merely the vehicle used to do so.

Not at all. As the article says, it's perfectly legal to rent out a room in your apartment, provided that you are also living in the apartment. The fact that some people use AirBnB illegally is neither here nor there.

Didn't hear about this, interesting the article didn't mention it.

An interesting story. What is more interesting is that it sets up the entire game.

Cities cap rents in an effort to rein in rapacious landlords, this 'traps' money in the system (whenever you artificially price something you open up the possibility that there is demand in excess of supply). AirBnb figures out a scheme to liberate that trapped money by enlisting the folks who are benefiting from the cap (tenants) at the expense of the folks who aren't getting the money (landlords).

So it is totally in the selfish interest of landlords to hire a third party, have them avail themselves of the service at any building where the landlord has tenants and such a service is in violation of the rent, and then to use the resulting lease violation to evict the tenant, allowing rent to rise and then capturing the money for themselves.

Its really really really important to read your lease. Seriously.

Both of these things go on (landlords with 'psuedo' hotels) and short term contracts that try to skirt hotel rules. The hotels has been shooting rocks at landlords and AirBnb for just this very reason. (if you measure disruptiveness by the number of people in power you piss off AirBnb scores 11 out of 10 :-))

There was an AirBnb story posted here a while ago about a NY tenant and AirBnb provider that got a letter from his landlords lawyer to cease and desist because it was a violation of his lease and oh by the way it was competing with rooms the landlord had set up.

Edit: Found the HN story: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4074105

Isn't renting a room for a few nights different than the guarantee of housing for months at a time? If not then why wouldn't the same landlord just do away with conventional leases and only rent on airbnb? They write the lease after all... but after all I'm just quibbling and maybe I'm wrong there.

This part of the article jumped out at me as well. SF residents of rent controlled apartments beware! This is the perfect excuse for you to be evicted.

Not sure if you actually need the whole fake customer scheme you describe though, I am sure a landlord could easily get enough evidence without doing this.

I wonder if there would be a new hotelier who might emerge who builds 'hotels' solely to rent out rooms via ABB to avoid some of the regular hoteling regulations.

Yes--this is already happening. Entire apt blocks (say 6 -12 units) set up to short-term-lease. The next-door property owners hate this (ie, short term = vargrants, if you are a snob) that is why they lobby for 30 day min-stay laws on sublets.

Interesting. I imagine if courts decide that ABB+lessors do not run afoul of housing/renting regulations and establish some precendence, it might make economic sense for someone to build an ABB hotel where only people booking via ABB and its decendats are booked, thus avoiding the regulation which runs up the price of other hoteling models.

That's unlikely to happen. There are extended-stay hotels for people who come from out of town to work temporarily and that are often paid for by the employer or a corporate client - they're basically little studio apartments with some extra services laid on for the convenience of the residents. To the extent that they're liable for hotel taxes or regulatory fees, the principle of equal protection under the law would require an ABB hotel to be be similarly liable.

My biggest problem with business models like AirBnB and Uber are that they don't solve the inefficiencies in the existing industry. Instead They transfer the risks inherent in the operations of those industries from businesses who understand, and therefore price according to, those risks, to individuals who don't. When the downsides of those risks happen, as in the case of the OP, the individual, who didn't understand or price according to that risk, is screwed. This is no different than the businesses who sold sub-prime mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, and then turned around and passed that risk off as bundled investments.

> they don't solve the inefficiencies in the existing industry

I disagree. To use some examples given in the original article: how about a guest being able to rent a room in a neighborhood that doesn't have any hotels? Or a host being able to earn money renting out an apartment that would otherwise sit empty?

Which is not to say that your other points about pricing and risk are not valid, of course.

Sometimes, but we don't know why there aren't rooms in those neighborhoods, or apartments sitting empty. If it's a genuine attempt to remove inefficiency, thats one thing, but an attempt to "beat the system"(the first part of sentence that talks about the empty rooms and location) may circumvent legitimate rules. For example HOA rules about subletting.

Five figure fines are completely unreasonable, the fault lies with NYC and the hotels who lobbied for these laws. Short-term housing is really bad for a city whose economy benefits so much from tourism; tiny hotel rooms start at 250/night. Airbnb is a really optimal solution.

My neighbor is an airbnb apartment. At first it bothered me that new people were staying there every week, but I realized the benefits. The people who stay there are always quiet and respectful, and I know the place is cleaned regularly (no rats/cockroaches coming from there). I think it works out well for my landlord too.

Lodging laws aren't there just to protect hotels. They exist to protect consumers and residents as well by setting standards for safety, etc. and helping pay for the services provided to guests by the municipality.

If you take AirBNB to its logical conclusion, you end up with landlords renting apartments on AirBNB instead of to actual residents, because they can make more that way -- because they're ducking the rules on offering commercial lodging, not paying for proper insurance, not paying taxes, etc.

I'm sure if someone ran a hotel but didn't bother with commercial fire codes and local taxes, they could charge less too.

"...If you take AirBNB to its logical conclusion, you end up with landlords renting apartments on AirBNB instead of to actual residents, because they can make more that way..."

This is exactly what happens in Paris. Housing market there is skewed due to exactly this behavior. People buy apartments and sit on them to rent them out short term. Over time it created a situation where people who I would classify as "working poor", were without housing. It struck me as strange when I was in college to see SDF who have to go to work.

> This is exactly what happens in Paris. Housing market there is skewed due to exactly this behavior.

Under any sane market, untapped demand creates its own supply.

Big cities, though, have big governments that forbid new construction. This works very well for those who already own property (they have their rental prices driven up), and works very well for the politicians (who get donations from the existing property owners) but works poorly for everyone else.

Not everyone who owns property is a landlord, so that alone blows a giant hole in your thesis. The older a city is, the more people want it to stay the same because they bought their property based on a certain set of assumptions, like a place being a quiet neighborhood or so.

Property owners do have an interest in the use and enjoyment of their property, and it is they, rather than government itself, that tend to raise a fuss when new construction is proposed. After all, local government makes quite a lot of money from new construction - permit fees, increased spending by construction workers, increased tax revenue on the newly developed property, and so forth. Likewise, politicians get donations from developers, and often larger ones than from residents since developers have deeper pockets. On the other hand, developers only have one vote each and tend to be outnumbered by residents, whose interests often prevail for this reason.

If you own your own home, you would probably not be thrilled if the lot next door was suddenly the site of a ten-story apartment building without you being consulted or compensated. If you don't like it, it's not like you can just move, and selling your property might involve a rather steep loss, depending on the quality and configuration of the new development. If you rent, it's easy to be indifferent to those considerations because you don't have any assets at risk.

People who aren't comfortable with the uncertainties of homeownership are free to rent instead. There are plenty of other investment opportunities out there. It isn't self-evident that keeping neighborhoods static creates more value than it destroys. I think there's more evidence to the contrary.

It's not a binary choice between runaway Shanghai-style development and amber-like stasis. You can equally argue that if people don't have any input into the planning process then they won't invest that property market in the first place. If there aren't enough people willing to buy, then developers won't be willing to build. This is why developers create HOA corporations for apartment buildings and tract housing, and make membership a condition of sale: to assure buyers that the development will be maintained in similar style to the time the properties were offered to the market. They don't emerge naturally from some common democratic impulse of apartment-dwellers or suburbanites.

Also, home ownership is not an investment opportunity for most people, who are looking for a place to live long-term rather than to flip or extract cash value from (the departure from this historical approach has a lot to do with the recent financial crisis). Rather, most homeowners want to extract use value and simply maintain the asset price.

Quiet you. Everyone knows that people are strictly rational economic actors. Factors such as sentimentality, preference, and anything else not about screwing over the next guy as much as possible never come into play.

I'm pretty sure the construction contractors have some skin in the "donating"-to-local-politicians game as well. Its not just one side that gets to hire lobbyists.

> Lodging laws aren't there just to protect hotels. They exist to protect consumers and residents as well by setting standards for safety, etc. and helping pay for the services provided to guests by the municipality.

That sounds very naive, and is extremely difficult to believe, unless hotels played no role in advocating the regulations. Besides, if that were the purpose, then why not ask the Airbnb renter and occupants if everything was up to their standards, and if both parties were happy (which is presumably the case, since most Airbnb transactions are presumably voluntary), drop the charges?

Exactly. Of course the regulations are worded and advertised as being about "consumer protection", what could the alternative possibly be? There is no way in hell a hotel lobby would write a law that plainly claimed to be for the protection of their interests.

When laws protecting Taxi monopolies claim to be for consumer protection, nobody here buys it. Those laws are for the protection of Taxi companies and unions. These laws are more of the same.

Please don't make blanket claims about what everyone here believes.

I believe laws protecting Taxis are for consumer protection, and so are the hotel laws.

While I do not claim these laws are perfect, I believe they continue to serve an important real purpose.

Certainly Taxis laws can and do protect consumers, but do you really think they are for that? In the authorial intent meaning of "for"?

That is a legitimate viewpoint, but I find it surprising to hear it here. It was not my intent to marginalize.

> "do you really think they are for that? In the authorial intent meaning of "for"?"

Why not? I mean, at this point your argument seems to be along the lines of "ah, but that's what they'd want you to think".

The vast majority of taxi laws are to protect the consumer: for example, obliging taxis to take you anywhere within the city limits clearly is of far more benefit the consumer than the taxi driver (the driver may not want to go to areas where there are fewer fares, for example.

Another example - here in London hackney drivers (taxis you can hail) must take an extensive test requiring memorisation of virtually every street. Again, this is of far more benefit to the consumer (a taxi driver who knows where he's going) than the driver (who has to spend a lot of time and money preparing for the test). Criminal background checks for taxi drivers: how is this not for consumer protection?

If you're going to claim that these regulations are primarily to serve business interests rather than consumers then please do, but at least cite a few examples. I'm sure they exist: I don't propose every regulation governing hotels and taxis are in the consumer's favor.

Yes, not all laws that are labeled as consumer protection have ulterior motivations (it would indeed be silly to argue that), but just from your list of examples the street memorization example certainly strikes me as one with dual motivation. It doesn't benefit people who want to become Taxi drivers, but it certainly benefits drivers who are already drivers. Tests like that keep competition low; Unions, formal or otherwise, love that sort of regulation. They simply adore it.

I did not think specific examples of taxi regulation were really necessary. HN always seems to be awash with stories about taxi corporations/unions with their pet politicians trying to shut down Uber for being unconventional in various ways. Uber is not harming consumers (in fact, they are better for consumers in many ways. For example due to the way that they work Uber drivers cannot discriminate against consumers by race, which is a large problem with regular taxis, at least in the States.), but Taxi companies/unions are wielding existing regulations, or even crafting new regulations, as weapons against what they perceive to be a threat to their business.

the street memorization example certainly strikes me as one with dual motivation. It doesn't benefit people who want to become Taxi drivers, but it certainly benefits drivers who are already drivers.

Aren't you leaving consumers out of the equation? After a decade of living in London, where Black Cab drivers are required to pass a stringent test of street knowledge (you can see would-be cab drivers zipping around London in the evenings on small motorcycles), I find it infuriating that American cab drivers frequently have no idea how to get me to my destination. As often as not I'm taking a cab because I don't know how to get where I'm going in the time available.

I have frequently raged against the taxi monopoly and in support of Uber, but as much because the licensed taxi drivers provide a crap service as anything else. If they were held to high standards by a regulator (as they are in some places) then I'd be a lot more supportive of restricted entry.

As I said, dual motivation. It serves the claimed consumer protection purposes, but standing industry defense.

While currently Über is better for consumers, if they ignore regulations, they could go downhill quickly.

Also, what about the next Internet taxi startup, and the one after that? Ending up with many tiny Internet companies would end us up in the same situation as unregulated taxis, where people end up getting badly ripped off?

> obliging taxis to take you anywhere within the city limits

> must take an extensive test requiring memorisation of virtually every street

Both of these could be things the bigger taxi companies already did willingly, but then pushed for legislation when competing upstarts began undercutting them by offering service only to high traffic routes. If the big taxi companies already do it, they are unharmed by the legislation, but competing companies much spend resources to follow the new regulations.

>"When laws protecting Taxi monopolies claim to be for consumer protection, nobody here buys it."

If I rent a room from you, and stick my hand in your meat grinder, who gets sued? Are you personally insured against such events? Is your landlord insured against temporary tenants?

These aren't unsolvable problems, but are why the laws exist as they do. The hotel pays money for insurance, which protects the consumer. Most AirBnB hosts don't, and that gives them a competitive advantage achieved by someone along the line breaking a law.

I am not claiming that there are not legitimate issues with consumer protection to be considered. I merely find the idea that those laws which on the surface claim to be for that were drafted and enacted with that motivation to be incredibly unlikely. Hotel lobbyists and their politicians were not actually concerned for the consumer. They just claim that; what else could they possibly claim?

If Walmart could figure out a way to make a law banning local businesses look like it was for consumer protection, they would attempt it in a heartbeat. Consumer protection is how you sell corporate protection laws.

Personally, I find it no different than not being able to drive a car without insurance. That protects me and other drivers, and I don't think it's an "insurance lobby" agenda (although we battle with that too).

Fair point, but I think it is important to keep in mind that consumer protection laws often (Always? ..no, probably not always.) have ulterior motivation.

We have to be willing to consider putting things called "consumer protection laws" on the chopping block. Calling these things "consumer protection laws" affords them more protection than they may be deserving of, because who doesn't like protecting consumers? It just sounds like a great thing to do.

Calling your law a "consumer protection law" is (or rather, can be) basically a more advanced form of naming your law cleverly enough that it forms a "patriotic" acronym.

These laws don't require AirBnB hosts to purchase insurance. They outlaw renting out their homes. An argument based on the need for insurance doesn't justify the laws.

>"They outlaw renting out their homes"

For what reason? I'm not engaged enough to do the work, but I bet the word "liability" comes up if you look into why these laws exist.

My point is, that there is more to the story than greedy hoteliers.

Typically, hotels will fight against these regulation before they are passed (fearing increased costs), then fight to defend them once they are there (once they realise it keeps out the competition).

He's saying regulations are there for hotels, consumers, and residents. It's not an either/or proposition.

If the complaint is that there are taxes that AirBnB lessors are avoiding, the solution is to have them pay the taxes.

(I understand there are other issues as well. I don't want my neighbor running a hotel.)

> Lodging laws aren't there just to protect hotels. They exist to protect consumers

Asserted without evidence.

Show me how commercial fire codes / building codes protect hotels but not consumers.

(Edited from "instead of" to "but not", since the original assertion was that they only help hotel owners.)

They don't help people who want to make a new hotel, but they increase barriers to entry into the hotel marketplace, which benefits established players in the space. An analogous case is federal/iihs car safety regulations - since it costs xx million to get a car federally certified, you didn't see that many automotive startups until pretty recently, and we don't get a lot of European cars since it would cost to much to recertify them for the us market

We get plenty of European cars. The only European brands that I've never seen in the US are Seat and Citroen, neither of which is especially competitive even within Europe. Car safety regulations are not there just to aid established players, as evidenced by the fact that US car companies have often strenuously opposed them.

They do reduce injuries and deaths from car accidents, which otherwise impose a high cost upon society.

This actually affected me directly. A mate and I were looking into bringing over some utes from Australia. Even though the cars are fit for the road over there, the governments here all wanted to "re-certify" the safety of the cars, which meant purchasing several for the sole purpose of having the crashed. Even then, the certifications would only apply to specific years.

Now I can understand trying to protect against some crazy welding his own frames in his backyard, but these are cars built by Ford and GM and driven millions of miles on tougher roads than any over here. Completely knackered.

Apartment buildings also have to adhere to fire codes and building codes too. If they are safe for residents, why wouldn't they be safe for guests?

    Five figure fines are completely unreasonable
Don't fines exist to create some real tangible downside to engaging in the behaviour? If the fine was $1,000 then there'd be a financial incentive to get around the laws. Much like with using public transport without paying, if the fine is 5x cost and you're only getting caught every 30 times it works out much cheaper.

There's also got to be a real cost to the local government to keep checking up on the people that have been previously caught, a fine large enough to put a serious dent in the finances of the person responsible should be large enough to cover the costs associated with investigations and court cases.

I'm wondering if anyone can illuminate us on the ostensible purpose of these types of regulations. I'm assuming it's to maintain some sort of control and regulation over those who would establish unlicensed hotels on a commercial scale? For the welfare of the guests I suppose?

I imagine in a world before the internet, this kind of thing was actually quite necessary. It would have been much harder to know any sort of details before booking a room in the night in a particular city (I don't know, I was born in 86). I'm guessing hotel regulations were written to maintain a baseline of quality, and regulations like the one this guy was fined under were written to keep people from getting around them.

Similar to the regulations on driving people around for money that Getaround and others are being fined for, to keep you from hailing a cab driven by a drunken, unlicensed cabbie.

At this point, though, it mainly seems that entrenched players like hotels and taxi companies are seeking rent.

I love the quote from the SF landlord at the end, celebrating the fact that infractions like these can be used to evict tenants and raise rents. We love you too, Ms. New.

I live in SF and I have no issue with landlords evicting tenants who were being AirBnB hosts. Realize that:

1) The housing market in SF is crazy right now (obviously this is hardly their fault)

2) There are thousands of available AirBnB rooms available in SF. A quick search far out returns over 2700 - thats 2700 (or more) rooms that people could be living in.

3) San Francisco has very strict rent control (whether or not that is a good thing is out of the scope of this comment), so in many cases tenants are reaping far more money from Airbnb then they pay in rent because their rent effectively hasn't increased, ever. This is absurdly disfunctional.

4) Regardless of laws, short term rentals are already against more or less against every lease agreement or HOA agreement.

I really couldn't care less about the hotel industry.

#1, #3 are all different ways of saying that the housing supply in SF is very tight.

That's a situation where creating more supply by renting out your room when you go on trips can be really helpful. Supply goes up, demand stays the same, rents fall.

#2 I think is an exaggeration of what's happening. Most places listed on AirBNB are occupied by owners putting their place up when they leave town. A few maybe not, but even in that case, why favor long-term renters over short-term renters?

#4 is a great point, but insurmountably restrictive laws make things worse by not allowing people to come to negotiated agreements with their landlords on using AirBNB. E.g., I'm sure landlords would be more amenable if they got a cut.

My take on this is that the problem here is that it's basically impossible to jump through the hoops necessary to legitimately rent out your room for a weekend, and that seems silly. You should be able to just fill out a form with the city, maybe pay a registration fee, and agree to comply with regulations.

Worth watching:

Growing up poor in San Francisco. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/poor-k...

This is heartbreaking.

This 11 year old girl seems extremely gifted. Her vocabulary and insight in astounding. She could be the next great innovator or artist but we don't do enough to help people like her act on their potential.

#3 is a good point. I agree on the overblown rent control laws here.

In terms of fire and safety codes for hotels, there's a saying that they're "written in blood" - they often arise in response to a major tragedy or disaster. Generally, the industry fights them tooth and nail, despite what everyone here is saying about protectionism, etc.

For example, Nevada enacted statewide regulations on sprinklers and other fire safety in large hotels after the 1980 MGM Grand fire, which killed 87 and injured 700: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/1980/nov/23/mgm-fire-may-mea...

(Vegas in particular seems to have a major hotel fire about every 10 years.)

There's also the aspect of protecting travelers - you often book at a hotel sight unseen, and when you get there you don't really have any ability to assess the safety of a lodging. It's one of those places where the free market is just not going to work that well, since you can't expect everyone to be a fire inspector.

Hotels and registered lodging providers (including B&Bs) are subject to a range of safety regulations in terms of occupancy, fire codes, inspections, etc. Things we take for granted, like fire sprinklers, fire alarms, multiple exit routs and backup illumination. They're important when you have a bunch of people in a building who are probably unfamiliar with its layout, like a hotel or commercial space. They're also generally going to be required by anyone willing to write liability insurance, etc for the business.

Additionally, you have taxes and fees charged by a city that help defray the cost of regulating and inspecting those providers, as well as helping cover city services utilized by visitors (who probably do not pay income tax, etc locally.)

I suspect that if AirBNB users had to carry commercial liability insurance, submit to inspections and file proper taxes, the appeal of hosting would go way down.

> I'm wondering if anyone can illuminate us on the ostensible purpose of these types of regulations.

Adam Smith is useful here. All regulation is created on behalf of business interests and is justified through the public interest.

Business Interest:

If everybody rented extra unused "space" and the market was fluid, this would substantially impact the profitability of the hospitality industry.

Public Interest:

Who wants to live next to a hotel?


If you want the laws to go, you'll need to build a larger business constituency for lobbying and then convince the public that their private property rights are being violated. Two step process.

Adam Smith is useful here. All regulation is created on behalf of business interests and is justified through the public interest.

That is not what Adam Smith says. His argument that regulations proposed by men of business should be closely scrutinized, since those proposals are almost always meant to further the interests of the business owners rather than the public. He does not assume the same of regulation in general, and is much more sympathetic to the interests of households and laborers than is commonly supposed.

convince the public that their private property rights are being violated

You don't have a property interest in a tenant lease whose terms you choose to violate. Note from the article that it's perfectly OK to let your spare room, as long as you yourself are there to take responsibility for the behavior of your guests.

> His argument that regulations proposed by men of business should be closely scrutinized

All regulations are proposed by men of business.

> Note from the article that it's perfectly OK to let your spare room

If you read the article, which mostly speaks about NYC, you'd know that's not OK. You're not permitted to lease any property for less than 30 days.

> All regulations are proposed by men of business.

Was Ralpha Nader in any way connected to seatbelt companies when he proposed seatbelt and safety laws for automobiles?

Seat-belts were invented more than a 100 years before they were mandated by the government. They were available as options on Ford vehicles more than 25 years before they were mandated by the government.

I'm sure the seat-belt manufacturers had nothing to do with them becoming mandatory, right?

Remember, I said regulation requires two components. A business interest with money to "grease the wheels" of government and a public interest component that convinces the public that it's wonderful for them. The seat-belt manufacturers provided the former, Mr. Nader the later. There doesn't need to be direct cooperation. Merely the presence of both.

Not that seat-belts don't save lives, they certainly do, but don't kid yourself ... there is always somebody who wins and somebody who loses with each regulation passed, somebody who makes money and someone who loses just smidgen of their liberty.

Again, read Adam Smith.

But an economist here would point out that the incentives for the hotel industry to lobby for these laws are large and concentrated, while the incentives for the rest of the world to lobby against it are small and spread out. Because of the nontrivial cost of collaboration, the large and concentrated incentives win every time, the economy at large suffers a deadweight loss, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

(If you meet a Republican or Libertarian who praises deregulation of something, this is a primary reason why.)

There's a security issue as well: Most buildings base their security on the idea that only tenants, or limited guests of tenants, will be allowed through the front door and into the complex.

If the next door apartment starts renting to a different person each night, the security (perceived or not) that you once had inside your building or complex has been compromised.

Also, having an apartment on your floor that's being rented out often means the social norms associated with close neighbors aren't respected in terms of noise, etc.

lmao if you misread Smith

In the article it mentions neighbors not having to deal with ever changing tenants.

This does sound a bit tenuous, what difference does it make if your neighbours change? You don't like people carrying luggage in the lift?

If your permanent neighbor has a loud party, you can talk to them about it the next day, and there's a decent chance you can come to an accommodation, since they have to live next to you too.

If a transient neighbor is too loud, you have no "social" recourse, because they have no incentive to accommodate you.

In addition to bcbrown's comment, trust/security is a factor. Neighbors may allow their kids to play in the hallway or go down to the lobby and check the mail on their own. But if there's a sense that the neighbors aren't known, then parents may feel uneasy about it.

Today, I crossed the street in the middle of the block because it was more convenient than walking to a corner, waiting for the light, and then backtracking along the other side of the street. This is illegal, but I did it anyway because the reward was higher than the near-zero risk that I would get in trouble for doing it.

People that run illegal hotels are doing the same thing: for every million guests, one guy gets a $45,000 fine. That works out to 4 cents per guest, which is a risk most people will take without thinking.

Your reasoning would be "ok" if Airbnb would absorb the cost of the fine. The problem here is that all the illegal part is done by the airbnb customer who offers his short term rental on the site and he is the one who has to pay the fine if any.

It's like if made an navigation app that tells you all the best places to jaywalk (and sold it to you), but failed to tell you that it's likely to eventually cost you $150.

Or jail time, as in the case of an SF cyclist who was an avid competitor in Strava's ap comunity: http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2012/06/chris_bucchere_c...

Uh, he killed someone. That's just plain negligent.

It's criminal because he disregarded traffic signals (I believe he recently pleasded guilty BTW). It's also negligent when he gets sued by the decedent's relatives in civil court.

That's not the app's fault, but it's not the only case where people have got into accidents because they were pursuing the status of fastest rider on a particular route. Where rewarding people (even intangibly) encourages them to push up against the limits of safety/legal restrictions, there's an argument for proximate causation, eg 'but for Appmaker's reward of an exclusive title (King of the Mountain) to the fastest cyclist on that stretch of road, Cyclist would not have habitually ridden at such high and dangerous speeds.'

It's not a million miles away from prosecuting people for organizing street racing: http://twitdoc.com/upload/onaccel/san-diego-illegal-street-r...

It's the app equivalent of a "cannonball run" - a race to see who can get from point A to point B as fast as possible. Unless you have some way to ensure participants obey traffic regulations (and I don't think anything exists at present), if you base winning on minimizing time you are arguably inducing people to break rules, since that's almost mandatory to win.

There's still some rallies around that run on public streets, but usually winning is based on _matching_ some target time, rather than having the shortest time overall.

Riding a bike fast is not all that dangerous. Ignoring traffic controls is. One would expect that the "king of the mountain" rating is based on a combination of lucky traffic light timing in addition to raw cycling skill. Otherwise, Lance Armstrong would win every route, right?

I am an attorney, but this is not legal advice.

The reason Airbnb isn't providing (and are unlikely to provide) legal warnings to its prospective hosts is that instead of being on the hook for one potential legal violation (N.Y. MDW. Law section 304(1)(a)), they'd be on the hook for two.

Advising hosts to obey the local laws in its jurisdiction is pretty harmless. Advising hosts what the law is, on the other hand, could be construed as the unauthorized practice of law, and could get Airbnb into even more hot water. See, e.g., N.Y. Judiciary Law section 495.

This article presents a false dichotomy:

"Could you afford the kinds of fines that Mr. Warren was facing? If not, take your listing down."

This assumes that a majority of hosts are breaking the law. Yet early in the article the author claims:

"...he was breaking the law. And that law says you cannot rent out single-family homes or apartments, or rooms in them, for less than 30 days unless you are living in the home at the same time."

I've stayed at roughly a dozen AirBnB listings, and only once was the host not living in the home during my stay. In fact, as the article mentions, that's a big part of the AirBnB guest experience-- interacting with the hosts.

Perhaps the problem is that many hosts are treating their homes as small hotels, letting out all the rooms and moving themselves elsewhere. Curtailing this practice would avoid legal issues and improve the guest experience. A win-win if you ask me!

Was this paid for by hotel interests? I'm really trying to understand the depth of PR in the news.

I can understand your sentiment, and you might be entirely correct to presume there's an agenda being pushed.

That said, it's a legitimate story. People are breaking the law and not even aware of it. Even if it is a "hit" piece, the concern is real.

Yeah, I mean, ignorance of the law and injustice of the law is no excuse in court, but it's a perfectly good moral excuse.

The NYT does have a hate-on for AirBnB. I'm not sure if it's because it's stepping on some toes that have influence there or if they're just not glamored by the new tech aspect like everyone else.

Or maybe AirBnB is similar enough to craigslist and newspapers hate craigslist because it killed print.

What's with the need to see a conspiracy in everything? Is it so hard to see how housing laws, which NYC residents LOVE when it comes to rent control and tenant rights, inherently conflict with the freedom for a renter to rent out the apartment for a profit?

I'm all for critical thinking, but not when it flouts occam's Razor just for the hell of it.

I agree in theory, but PG posted some pretty damning stuff about the reach of PR in the news, and I want to know how far that reach goes down. In this article, the author specifically says, "yo, you shouldn't airbnb."

That's a bit more than just reporting the facts.

Hometown bias against a weird foreign service contrary to local norms is a pretty reasonable explanation. Sometimes I forget what the NY in NYT stands for :)

couldn't it simply be a genuine customer review. I honestly think there's no PR from hotel lobby here.

It may be paid for by some hotel lobby, that does not invalidate the story. (Assuming that the facts and the stories reported are true)

Given the choice, I'd imagine hotels would prefer AirBNB's name not get any mainstream press - good or bad.

This is why trying to commodify sharing is a bad idea.

CouchSurfing > AirBNB, Hitch hiking > Zimride, Sidecar, etc.

There's still no enforceable law against generosity.

Lots of places have laws about soliciting rides by the side of the road though.

So AirBnB is supposed to know the laws of every single city/town/village/condo or home owner's association, or does this guy think New York is "special"?

Answer from the article: "Perhaps it isn’t reasonable to expect the company, which believes it’s worth at least $2 billion according to a TechCrunch report on its latest fund-raising efforts, to track down every zoning law in tiny vacation hamlets. But it can certainly make the rules clear in urban areas where it knows that people like Mr. Warren could easily end up in hot water."

If Airbnb started providing warnings about laws in various cities, wouldn't the lack of a warning for another area suggest there were no legal issues there?

This seems like something you can't half-ass.

In other areas, you can simply swap out the "This is Illegal" disclaimer with a "This might be illegal in your area, we don't know"

I really hope that your are right. Everything else would be a very perverse incentive.

I wonder if "making the rules clear" in some areas but not others opens them up to liability.

The guy likely signed a lease forbidding what he did. Every New York lease I've ever signed always clearly laid out that prohibition. The liability ends there.

If you want to be a in market, then compliance is your responsibility. It's not like AirBNB can't afford a lawyer, or like these laws are not discoverable online. Indeed, AirBNB is in a much better position to research and advise its partners on the law than individual apartment-dwellers who want to participate in the service do; the company benefits from substantial economies of scale.

"Indeed, AirBNB is in a much better position to research and advise its partners on the law"

How are they in a "much better position" to know what weird condition exists in someone's lease, or what might be in the articles of some random HOA?

Just how far does this go? Should (e.g.) a company that sells mail-order baby chicks do research to find out that (e.g.) the local ordinances where I live prohibit keeping more than two of any one kind of animal within the city limits?

>So AirBnB is supposed to know the laws of every single city/town/village/condo or home owner's association, or does this guy think New York is "special"?

That's half the point. The other half is that nearly everyone who rents out spaces on AirBnB is likely breaking a local law or tenant agreement. These laws occur on a broad enough scale, globally, that the customer should be warned.

Don't they do just that?


It looks pretty thorough to me.

This actually seems like an avenue for revenue for municipalities who have budget shortfalls.

Create short-term, non-complicated licenses that expire after a couple of days. Require signature of surrounding neighbors. Charge $25.

I can see that being good to the coffers.

The law here clearly needs to evolve, and probably should have evolved by now. AirBnb wants to keep people safe, as it's in the best interest of their business. Some purposes of the law are also to keep people safe, but we need to revisit protectionist laws that restrict renting out parts of your home to others solely to protect hotels, and the fact that Airbnb has made it much safer to rent out your home (you can see people's reputations online, their social networks and who they know, Airbnb provides insurance, etc) means that some of the old laws aren't needed.

What is clear to me is that this sort of spot enforcement is a waste of taxpayer money and doesn't serve to help anyone. I hope we can work towards real legal reform as companies like Airbnb and Uber drive innovation in our cities.

A family member owns a condo that I considered suggesting they put on Airbnb. Then I thought about how other condo owners currently have a conniption fit when they think people (guests) are getting access to the building that shouldn't. I cannot imagine the amount of hell that would be unleashed if they saw so many random people coming and going. Even if there was nothing in the bylaws I could see them causing my relatives massive headache.

Conversely, the entranceway door to a condo is a security feature that all owners have a shared responsibility for. If I was one of the other owners (or even a renter) how would I feel about another person renting their condo out on a nightly basis to anyone willing to pay for it? I'm pretty torn on the issue.

This follows a classic pattern. Incumbents once argued that having a 3rd wireless carrier per city was a threat to the public: http://cdixon.org/2012/10/10/regulatory-hacks/

They should know which cities they've had issues with and let their user know so they can stay informed. Having their users post warnings about particular cities would benefit everybody.

Nothing is going to change unless a large class action suit is brought against Airbnb. I can tell you right now their site disclaimer won't help them in a court of law.

> They should


As an airbnb host and user for more than 2 years, I would just like to say that I find Airbnb to always accessible and thorough in all matters related to my experience. They have taken the measure to have insurance in which to protect those renting out. I do not expect them to keep me abreast of laws ordinances in my neighborhood as that is my due diligence. I have been completely thrilled with my experience and recommend it to others.

I just got my electric bill from the city of Austin. On the newsletter, they mentioned that short term vacation leases ("vacation rentals by owner") require a license from the city. There's also a license for longer term rentals, but basically in Austin if you're going to rent your place (it sounds like Airbnb included), you need to get this license.

His complaint with Airbnb remains, though. “They need to start being a little more responsible and acknowledging what happened and providing a warning to users,” he said. “They’re in some kind of fight with the cities, and the users are paying the price.”

-- Says guy who doesn't care/read what he signs?

"unless you are living in the home at the same time." What are the conditions for living in the home at the same time? What if my roomate is out of town and I'm the role of the host? Can the room still be rented? Does leaving for a few days really mean that I'm not living in the home?

Situation: If you have a roommate, since it's only illegal if you're not living there, can't you just have your roommate be the official leaser while you're out of town and pay you unofficially?

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