Next year, New Orleans residents will be able to find out if their neighbors are renting their homes to tourists through Airbnb, city officials confirmed Thursday, contrary to a report in The New York Times.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and executives from Airbnb have called the city’s new short-term rental ordinance, which legalizes renting private homes for less than 30 days, “model legislation.”

That’s partly because Airbnb has agreed to share information about people who are renting properties through its service. In a process called “pass-through registration,” Airbnb will provide the city with the names and addresses of short-term rental hosts who register on its site.

According to the ordinance, the city will maintain a list of all registered hosts, which it will use to enforce regulations, including an annual limit of 90 days for renting out entire homes or apartments.

Wednesday, The New York Times published a story on the negotiations that led to the law. It reported that Airbnb was reluctant to share information about hosts due to privacy concerns, but “the company eventually agreed after New Orleans officials said they would protect the data and not make it public.”

Another Times story repeated the claim Thursday: “Airbnb is giving the city the names and addresses of the hosts offering their properties for rent in New Orleans, but the city isn’t allowed to share them with others.”

That would appear to violate the state Public Records Law, which opens up most government records for public scrutiny. The law provides some exceptions, but none seems to apply to information contained in municipal permits.

The city routinely provides information on various permit-holders to the public, posting much of it on several online databases. Moreover, the city maintains a separate public database of other types of short-term rentals, including inns and hotels.

City spokeswoman Erin Burns told The Lens that the Times’ reporting was inaccurate.

“The registry data that the City receives from Airbnb—including names, addresses and permit numbers—will be made available to the public,” Burns wrote in an email. According to the city’s website, the information will be posted online at beginning April 1.

Hosts also will be required to post their permits on the outside of their building.

But, Burns noted, the city will not disclose information on taxes paid by individual hosts, in accordance with another state law.

In a paper published Wednesday about how Airbnb is working with governments to craft rules and collect taxes from short-term rentals, the company said it is using a similar host registration system in Chicago. It notes that this is an exception to its standard practice of having hosts deal directly with local governments to obtain the necessary licenses.

“Pass-through registration can be difficult to implement,” the company said, “requiring significant technical cooperation between a city and a home sharing platform to share data regarding individual hosts.”

Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado is the editor of The Lens. He previously worked as The Lens' government accountability reporter, covering local politics and criminal justice. Prior to joining The Lens, he worked for...