By now you’ve probably heard the numerous news reports of swingers and prostitutes turning NYC’s Airbnb apartments into their personal brothels. It makes perfect sense, these rentals are significantly cheaper than a hotel. A 21 year old call girl states:
“Its more discrete and cheaper than W. Hotels have doormen and cameras. They ask questions. Apartments are usually buzz-in.”
I suppose I should applaud these folks for finding a flaw in the system and using it to their advantage. However the germaphobe in me is shuddering at the thought of this blatant violation of personal space. I’ve seriously considered listing my apartment on Airbnb mainly because it’s a quick and easy way to earn extra income. However this idea was quickly put to rest as I’m very picky about who I let into my space coupled with fact that I’m a hygiene snob. The thought of grimy people rolling around in my sheets is enough to literally make me gag.
One can argue that Airbnb becomes a hotel (they’re not quite a legally recognized hotel service yet) and renters technically have no say on what activities guests can engage in. In Airbnb’s contract there is no specific clause that protects renters from these types of incidences. In order to circumvent any of these illicit sexual activities Airbnb must change their contracts to protect renters and perhaps engage in different monitoring practices. In the interim while their policies are being rewritten you just have to be careful who you rent to and vet your rentee thoroughly. Maybe even pop up unannounced if you have to, though I’m sure that will make for horrible reviews.
These reports couldn’t have come at a worst time. While attempting to clean up these PR disasters Airbnb is also grappling with New York State lawmakers to allow the company to run as a hotel service. Airbnb executives stated that this will bring the city up to 21 million dollars in taxes. State Attorney General Eric Schneidermanan has subpoenaed the company for evasion of 15 percent hotel tax and potential violation of a 2010 law that prohibits tenants from renting out their apartments for less than 30 days. Mayor Bill De Blasio is not a fan of Airbnb either as he expressed opposition to the company operating alongside the city’s hotel industry during his election campaign.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Will the city make room for these new peer sharing services in the travel industry? Assuming Airbnb can now legally operate as a hotel service do you think that renters have a right to feel violated if their space is used as a sex den?