When Lawyers Send Letters

Airbnb Goes to the Mattresses on Behalf of Busted Host

They'll fight for the host accused of violating New York's illegal hotel laws.
Pretty! (Photo: screencap)

Pretty! (Photo: screencap)

When last we checked in with poor Nigel Warren, the Airbnb host accused of violating the state’s illegal hotel laws, a judge had just ruled he had to pony up $2,400. That’s less than the $7,000 he was originally cited, but still–yikes.

But while Mr. Warren surely doesn’t want to cough up a couple grand, it’s even more important for Airbnb that he win the case, because otherwise legal precedent suggests their service is verboten. And who wants to risk legal troubles for a little extra cash?

So today, the company announced it would support Mr. Warren and his landlord throughout the process of appealing the ruling. “We may lose again before we prevail, but we intend to fight this ruling until justice is done,” wrote David Hantman, the company’s global head of public policy, in a blog post announcing the move. He added:

“This decision could not have more clearly shown that the New York law needs to be clarified and should be made more fair for regular New Yorkers who occasionally rent out their own homes to help make ends meet. In 2010, the State of New York passed a law designed to crack down on bad actors that operate illegal hotels—a goal we all share. Unfortunately, the 2010 law also had the unintended consequence of impacting regular New Yorkers.”

The company is working with the state government to exempt individual hosts from the 2010 law, but that’s a work in progress. In the meantime, the goal is to overturn Mr. Warren’s penalties.

However! Don’t get any ideas about petitioning Airbnb for legal aid if you also get into trouble: “While we did intervene in this case on a important point of law that seems clear to us, we cannot provide individual legal advice, and every case has its own specific facts.” Only you know just how big of a pain in the ass your coop board can be, in other words. Act accordingly.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com