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Assemblyman's Pro-Airbnb Legislation Plagiarizes Lingo From Company's Memo

 Joseph Lentol's bill which would legalize some short-term rentals lifted words from an 2016 memo. 
Joseph Lentol's bill which would legalize some short-term rentals lifted words from an 2016 memo. 
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Joseph Lentol/New York State Assembly

BROOKLYN — A Brooklyn assemblyman's written argument for his bill aimed at upending city laws governing short-term rentals plagiarizes several paragraphs from a memo by Airbnb.

Joseph Lentol's "one-host one-home" provision, introduced into the state Assembly on April 28, justifies the need for the law using two paragraphs written by the short-term rental company's policy team in 2016, the Times Union first reported.

"For as long as people have had homes, they have opened them up to travelers, welcoming newcomers to their neighborhoods and earning a little extra money on the side. By the middle of the 19th century, nearly half of urban Americans spent part of their lives either as boarders in others' homes or as hosts in their own," both the 2016 memo and the justification for Lentol's bill read.

"Today, the revolution in information and communications technology have led to a home sharing revival with Americans from coast to coast connecting with travelers from all over the world on digital platforms like Airbnb."

When asked about the assemblyman's cribbing of the Airbnb memo, Lentol's chief of staff Cathy Peake admitted that "it would have better if we had acknowledged that."

"We're not looking to say we don't work with Airbnb," she said, adding Lentol has met multiple times with Airbnb lobbyists, as well as many of his district's 2,000 Airbnb hosts. "Groups that come and bring us legislation, we work with them all the time. We share language. That's the process."

If passed, Lentol's bill would create a registry for short-term rentals for those who could prove the apartments were their primary residence. It's currently illegal in New York City for anyone to rent out an entire apartment for less than 30 days. The bill would also create a mechanism to collect taxes on hosts and the apartment-sharing platform they use.

Lentol and Airbnb have been working together on their bill for several years, according to the company.

"Assemblyman Lentol is showing true leadership by paving the way for a modern regulatory framework that allows everyday New Yorkers the chance to earn extra income by sharing their homes,” said Josh Meltzer, Airbnb’s head of New York Public Policy. “While New York has tried to position itself as a leader in the internet economy, outdated regulations enacted to help entrenched special interests are standing in the way."

Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the mayor, whose office has recently begun enforcing a state law that makes advertising short-term rentals illegal, said the office is reviewing the legislation.

"The City is dedicated to protecting the availability of affordable housing, the quality of life of its residents, and the safety of our guests and communities," she said. "We will be reviewing these proposals with these goals in mind."