Concerns With Plan To Regulate Airbnb

Photo/Jano Tantongco Huntington-based Airbnb host Philip Giovanelli speaks during Tuesday’s hearing.  

Photo/Jano Tantongco
Huntington-based Airbnb host Philip Giovanelli speaks during Tuesday’s hearing.

 

By Jano Tantongco
jtantongco@longislandergroup.com

 

Local hosts are concerned with the town board’s plan to regulate home rental services, like Airbnb, in Huntington.

Four hosts spoke Tuesday during a public hearing at the town board meeting to express particular concerns, including those with a proposed limit of 120 days per year for hosts to rent out their building — a limit that one host called arbitrary.

However, Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, who penned the two resolutions targeting the services, disagreed. Cuthbertson said the proposed limit is nearly four times that of short-term lodging service Airbnb’s yearly average in New York, citing figures provided by a company representative.

“Their average person is [renting] 36 days a year,” Cuthbertson said. “We’ll take another look at it before we enact; we’re really trying.”

Cuthbertson first sought an outright ban of services like Airbnb, but after soliciting comments from hosts and input the company itself, he amended his proposal to regulate instead of ban.

Jeffrey Sellers, who works in public policy for Airbnb, spoke at Tuesday’s hearing and said over the past year since May 1, within the Town of Huntington, a total of 70 hosts took in nearly 3,000 guests. A majority of those listings were in the hamlets of Huntington, Huntington Station and Northport, he added.

One of those hosts is Huntington-based Philip Giovanelli, who said he often rents to scientists working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“I wouldn’t want to turn down a visiting scientist, particularly a cancer researcher or a DNA researcher, because I don’t have three days left on my calendar,” Giovanelli said, adding that he does think the 120-day limit is fair, but hopes there would be a way to extend it, if needed.

Giovanelli also said he often has guests stay for long periods of time, including one who rented for 42 days straight, and asked if those extended stays would count toward the town limit.

Town Attorney Cindy Elan-Mangano said stays over 30 days would count as a month-to-month lease and would not be counted toward the 120-day limit.

Cuthbertson added, “We’ll just try to allow them to exist, allow people to make money, but to let there be some sort of upper limit on it.”

Meanwhile, Sellers suggested several changes to Cuthbertson’s proposals, including allowing both renters and homeowners to list their residence through the service, and removing a stipulation that would prevent homes with more than three bedrooms from being rented.

Sellers also asked that a guest registry provision be modified to ensure that records only must be disclosed upon proper warrant or subpoena. He cited a 2015 Supreme Court case that struck down a Los Angeles ordinance asking hotel operators to maintain guest records and show them to law enforcement at will.