Airbnb users face some legal tangles

Credit: Airbnb.
Credit: Airbnb.

If you have listed your apartment on Airbnb, you might want to review the state’s “multiple dwellings” law: it turns out a good number of listings are illegal in New York.

According to a report in Crain’s, about 30,000 New Yorkers are signed up as hosts. Last year, those New Yorkers hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors. An average stay was around six nights.

Crain’s noted that the majority of listings are outside of the hotel-packed commercial area between 14th and 59th street, which allows tourism dollars to be spent in neighborhoods that don’t typical see that revenue.

But a state law enacted in 2011 is prompting some trouble. The law was meant to prevent developers from buying up buildings zoned as residential, and then running them as hotels, without adhering to the regulations that apply to buildings zoned as hotels. But now it seems it could be getting in the way of short-term sublets by tenants, like those booked on Airbnb.

Lobbyists are now working in Albany on behalf of Airbnb to change that law to make it more amenable to New Yorkers using Airbnb.

Airbnb and its proponents argue  that the law even as it stands now doesn’t necessarily apply to people who are sharing their homes, as opposed to renting out their entire apartment while they’re not there.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said that “87 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York list a home they live in.”

“They are average New Yorkers trying to pay their monthly bills and we are working with leaders in New York towards a more consistent, fair, and progressive set of laws that will allow the community of travelers and hosts who rely on Airbnb to continue to flourish.”

The repercussions of the multiple dwellings law are all too real for one East Village resident. Nigel Warren is currently fighting fines from the Department of Buildings because of he rented out his apartment for three nights using Airbnb, according to a report from WNYC.

WNYC reported that Warren is worried the fines could total $30,000, but fines listed by a judge last week added up to $7,000.

The Department of Buildings would not provide comment on the lawsuit with Nigel Warren, nor explain why Warren was singled out among all Airbnb users.

The Warren case, however, is not specifically connected to Airbnb. It stems from a complaint the city reportedly received about Warren’s apartment, that prompted an investigation and subsequent violation notice by the Department of Buildings.

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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