Hundreds of New Yorkers, like others nationwide, have been making a few extra dollars by using sites such as AirBnB, Crashpadder, Roomorama, and Craigslist to sublet pullout sofas, living rooms, and whole apartments. But that may end soon. This week, New York state senators vote on a bill that would make it illegal for any homeowner or renter to sublet for less than a month. The new law would be a blanket ban on short-term rentals no matter how ethical the renter is.
I don't know Crashpadder and Roomorama, but AirBnb is a very cool start-up that provides a genuinely useful service. Like Stubhub and eBay before it, AirBnb takes some of the risk out of buying from a stranger (in this case, renting a room) and it gives people with rooms to rent a valuable marketing platform--as well as the ability to accept credit cards. It makes finding a cheap, short-term sublet feel nearly as easy and as secure as finding a hotel room, and it seems to be taking off.
Which of course is why the hotels hate it.
TechDirt points out that it doesn't have to be this way. "[W]e always see with these types of laws, the politicians couch them in terms of the need for regulation for things like 'protecting tax revenue' or 'safety standards,'" writes Mike Masnick. "But, of course, there are plenty of other ways to deal with those issues outside of outlawing the practice entirely."
In fact, this is the very thing that a company like Airbnb seems poised to help out with. Instead of simply trying to outlaw an obviously productive practice, why not simply figure out a way to make sure that people who rent rooms are paying their taxes? Seems like it'd be easy enough for Airbnb to collect the appropriate room taxes on checkout.