Hacker Newsnew | comments | show | ask | jobs | submitlogin

> In theory, the Attorney General prosecutes all perceived violations of the law[0]

What? No. The AG is a political office. Prosecutorial discretion is used all the time because there are lots of anachronistic and over-broad laws on the books, and because there are lots of lawbreakers that are not politically expedient to prosecute.




Exercising prosecutorial discretion is appropriate when you're talking about enforcing laws against having sex with the lights on or some such thing. Not when you're talking about enforcing laws that probably only a vocal minority actually oppose. There's a small group of property owners who want to rent out their places on AirBnB, and a much bigger group worried about what the constant stream of short-term renters will do to their neighborhoods.

This investigation is clearly political, but not in the shadowy anti-competitive way implied above. Property owners are the most important constituency for state and local governments. To a great extent, those governments exist to protect the interests of property owners. An AG pursuing a pro-owner position is hardly to be considered the result of political corruption.

-----


>a much bigger group worried about what the constant stream of short-term renters will do to their neighborhoods.

Tell me more about how the concerns of the majority overrule the rights of the minority.

-----


You're misleading: No right of the minority is overruled in this case. If it's legal to rent out your apartment, you're not violating tax code, zoning regulations or any other laws you're free to rent out your apartment on AirBnB. However, just being a minority doesn't make you exempt from laws. The fact that the AG is investigating doesn't imply a conviction.

-----


Tell me more about how the concerns of the majority overrule the rights of the minority.

I'm not sure the snark is necessary or even make sense. The 'minority' shouldn't expect a right to illegally rent out their living spaces. I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here.

-----


The minority shouldn't expect the right to illegally vote, or go to this building, etc...

-----


I will oblige: The concerns of the law abiding majority override that of the law violating minority. An example of this is when murderers have their right to freedom of movement taken away. Surely you don't want serial killers running loose on the streets.

Do you see how easy it is to misrepresent someone's argument? We can do this all day but it would be a more productive discussion if we apply the Principle of Charity to each others' comments.

-----


It's not the rights of the minority, in this case. In the jurisdiction in question, there is no legal right to rent your apartment to short-term guests. Nor do I perceive a moral right to do so.

It would be more accurate to say: The broad economic interests of property owners in general outweigh the narrower economic interests of people who would like to offer short-term accommodations.

-----


> there is no legal right to rent your apartment to short-term guests

I am just trying to understand the situation. I don't see what is the difference between me being in the apartment vs somebody else being there. About taxation, we already pay income taxes. The property owner already pays property taxes. If people who rent out their apartments don't disclose said rent money in their income tax, yes I'd say it is scummy that people are getting out of paying taxes when my income tax gets reported/deducted at the source.

They probably should get hit with a huge fine for tax avoidance.

Humor me for a second. If short-term renters were quiet and non-aggressive, would you still have a problem with that? How does the hotel tax on short-term renting solve anything? Can people be loud and obnoxious because they have paid the hotel tax?

-----


> I don't see what is the difference between me being in the apartment vs somebody else being there

There's a big difference: The landlord has researched and approved you, but not your guests. The landlord probably did a criminal background check on you, and quite possibly a search in a tenant database. They're not just concerned about deadbeats who don't pay their rent. They're also concerned about damage to the apartment, disturbance to other tenants, criminal activity, etc.

> If short-term renters were quiet and non-aggressive, would you still have a problem with that?

If you could guarantee that short-term renters wouldn't cause a problem, then that would be fine with me. (I am a landlord.) But how could you possibly guarantee that?

> Can people be loud and obnoxious because they have paid the hotel tax?

In that case, the building is officially a hotel. Which means all its occupants signed up for what hotel stays potentially entail, such as loud neighbors. Likewise, the local government approved the plan to put a hotel there, knowing full well the potential problems.

In an apartment building, none of this is true. The people living there didn't sign up for hotel living. Nor did the local government determine that transient occupants would be acceptable for the neighborhood.

-----


For an example of lawbreakers inexpedient to prosecute, in NY, see this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/nyregion/charitys-fired-ch...

You have to read the story three times -- for some reason the NYT didn't want to be clear. But the upshot is that an embezzler was using a nonprofit to recycle state grants into political contributions. His wife works for the Speaker of the State Assembly.

Any investigation of her? Or the Speaker? Prosecutorial discretion doesn't seem super interested.

There are real reasons to regulate rental activity like AirBnB's. It would be nice if we could believe the regulatory apparatus was interested in protecting ordinary citizens' rights in their ordinary residences. Seems like a stretch.

-----


Prosecutorial discretion is used all the time because there are lots of anachronistic and over-broad laws on the books...

... and this isn't equivalent to a monarchy, how?

Among the more interesting questions in law are these: "Should every minor indiscretion be punished? If not, why not? If so, who decides? What side effects can be expected if it ever becomes possible to punish every instance of lawbreaking?"

We've hobbled our society with so many laws that their volume alone, never mind their scope, makes it impossible for any of us to call ourselves law-abiding citizens. What makes the question especially interesting and topical is that we're moving into an epoch of universal surveillance. The cops will see and know everything you do, and so will your neighbors, because they wouldn't have it any other way. Consequently we will have to rethink our prior habit of making as many laws as possible on the grounds that we're making them to control "those other people."

The time when we can dodge the Should every indiscretion be punished? question, or remain safely detached from it, is over. The archaic hotel laws, along with the arbitrary taxes that go with them, may be a good place for those of us who would like to steer society toward legislative minimalism to make our stand. (Yeah, yeah, I know, why don't I move to Somalia, etc., etc.) Good luck to AirBnB in what will probably be a very difficult fight against powerful incumbent interests.

-----


> Yeah, yeah, I know, why don't I move to Somalia, etc.

Seriously: Large bodies of law evolved because there's always some idiot that tries to take advantage of a loophole in law. Because we as a society needed to codify property rules, no-murder and rule of law, all those pesky little amenities you'd be lacking in Somalia.

If we could all agree on "don't do things you don't want to be done onto you" and "be reasonable" then we wouldn't need like 90% of todays laws. But zoning regulations were at some point created because people just didn't want to have a party crowd of tourist on their pavement. I know, I've been living on one of the to-go places in Berlin for two years. It's just annoying that people can't be at least a little decent - I've had my share of loud spanish, english, german discussions on the pavement, drunk people en masse in the supermarket and alcohol induced puke on the porch, enough of having to keep my dog from chewing on the tenth used condom.

So I'm quite happy that there's no hotel where I live now and that none of my neighbors is trying to run a hotel-like establishment on AirBnB. And I'd prefer it to stay this way. (no, moving away is not an option - I already moved away once). And basically this all falls back to "if people would just behave at least a little, there'd be no problem."

-----




Applications are open for YC Summer 2015

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Y Combinator | Apply | Contact

Search: