Airbnb’s legal woes continue

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The home sharing giant has continuing legal issues around the world

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo received a letter from several big names in the tech industry – including PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and actor and venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher.

The letter urged Cuomo to veto legislation that would penalize Airbnb hosts who advertise rentals of less than 30 days in permanent Class-A units up to $7,500.

Short term Airbnb rentals have officially been illegal in the US since 2010, reports Biznow, but as the law hasn’t been rigorously enforced, thousands of people continue to use the platform.

Under the current law, the property owner is liable to be penalized – and not the tenant who may have listed the property on the site and who acts as host. This is regardless of whether the owner was aware that the rentals site was being used.

Sherwin Belkin, partner at Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman insists the legislation does nothing new, but merely fine-tunes the existing law.

“It has nothing to do with technology,” he says. “It’s trying to make sure the wrongdoer is punished, something that the real estate community has been clamoring for a very long time, but only recently got attention because Airbnb’s business—and thus the fines—have gone up exponentially in the last year.”

More: Looking for short-term rental deals? ‘Co-living’ could be for you

Airbnb's CEO Brian Chesky. Image credit: TechCrunch (Flickr)
Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky. Image credit: TechCrunch (Flickr)

The popularity of Airbnb and similar sites has continued to climb in Asia. Despite similar legal restrictions, these have rarely been enforced.

In Thailand, Airbnb contravenes the Hotel Act and while these type of short term rentals are commonplace, a crackdown has been seen in the Thai resort town of Phuket.

Last month, owners of all 234 registered condo projects were sent a written warning that they will receive a fine of up to THB20,000, (USD557) or a year in jail, should their property be found to be violating the law.

Bangkok based lawyer Desmond Hughes, of Asia based law firm Hughes Krupica, previously told Property Report:

“Airbnb and companies like them are not responsible for legal compliance of the landlords and tenants. Therefore, no reliance or burden can be shifted away to them in general terms.” He continued: “When it comes to individuals using their properties for standalone occasional rental, they must have regard to the laws of Thailand and cannot rely upon the use of an internet portal to somehow ‘escape’ from regulation.”

Similarly, in Singapore, while Airbnb and the similar PandaBed thrive in terms of popularity, it’s technically illegal to rent out rooms or entire apartment for less than six months in the city state. Many homeowners however, continue to take the risk to earn extra income.

Well aware of their legal compliance issues, Airbnb offers advice on their website regarding how site users should be aware of local laws before using the site:

Some cities have laws that restrict your ability to host paying guests for short periods. These laws are often part of a city’s zoning or administrative codes. In many cities, you must register, get a permit, or obtain a license before you list your property or accept guests. Certain types of short-term bookings may be prohibited altogether. Local governments vary greatly in how they enforce these laws. Penalties may include fines or other enforcement.


Read next: Japan slowly opens up to the private home rental sector