Short-term house rentals ought to meet the same safety standards as hotels: Queens senator

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UPDATED AUG. 8, 10 a.m.

A Queens senator is proposing new legislation to address concerns around the safety of short-term rentals offered through online hubs such as Airbnb.

Shortly after Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal introduced legislation that would require Airbnb to provide the addresses of its hosts’ listings to law enforcement officials, state Senator Tony Avella is seeking legislation to require all short-term rentals to keep guests’ records for a certain period of time and request legal identification of guests upon arrival and check-in, which are required for those checking in to hotels or motels.

The bill would amend New York State’s General Business Law and place the same requirements that legal lodging establishments must uphold to short-term rentals, such as those found on Airbnb. Avella is calling for short-term rentals should be required keep guests’ records for three years and to produce these records when asked by regulators and law enforcement officers.

The bill will also require all legal lodging establishments to require photo identification from guests upon their arrival, a practice that is currently in place at hotels that Airbnb does not require.

“Airbnb’s unwelcome proliferation in neighborhoods in my district, mostly by absentee commercial operators, has created a public nuisance and public safety risks that are simply unacceptable,” Avella said. “If Airbnb wants to act like a hotel, then it must be subject to the same basic transparency and disclosure requirements that all legal lodging establishments in the City of New York are responsible for.”

Airbnb — which has listings for scores of Queens homes, including the former childhood home of President Donald Trump in Jamaica Estates — has recently come under fire for allowing listings that violate fire safety and building code. They included a Little Neck home which the Department of Buildings ordered to be vacated after inspectors found a number of safety violations in the home.

Avella also cited a lawsuit against Airbnb that states that a user was sexually assaulted by a “verified superhost” who had been arrested for battery and domestic abuse.

The Airbnb listing in Little Neck has since been removed and the homeowner was banned by the company. However, according to Avella, Airbnb has resisted to adapt certain protocols that are taken by hotels, despite the public’s safety concerns. Airbnb’s current policy states that background checks are completed only when enough information is provided and if the user is a United States citizen.

“It was a classic example of what’s wrong with Airbnb, they are putting people in unsafe conditions,” said Senator Avella. “We do background checks for a reason, for safety. I do not understand why Airbnb won’t do that.”

In addition to requiring photo identification and maintaining guest registries, Avella is seeking to require owners of Airbnb rentals to state the property address on their listings in Queens and to affirm that there are no outstanding violations in their property.

Airbnb has reached out to QNS to respond to Senator Avella’s proposed legislation.

“It is unfortunate that a lawmaker who has taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the hotel industry would introduce legislation attacking hardworking New Yorkers for using their own homes to earn enough to stay in the neighborhoods they love,” said Airbnb spokesperson Peter Schottenfels. “If Senator Avella is serious about this issue, he should join Assemblyman Lentol in fighting for common sense legislation that allows New Yorkers to share their homes while cracking down on commercial operators who abuse home sharing platforms.”

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