It would take the city 43 years to investigate all potentially illegal Airbnb listings

May 11, 2017

While the state’s updated anti-Airbnb bill has now been in effect for three months, the city has issued fines on just 139 illegal listings, out of the nearly 24,000 that reportedly need to be investigated. The recently enacted legislation builds on the state’s 2010 law that makes it illegal to rent out an apartment for less than 30 days without the owner present. The new law goes further by making it illegal to advertise these short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb. As Crain’s explains, based on the number of listings on the company’s website, it would take the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement nearly 43 years to investigate all of them.

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Data released from Airbnb showed 23,689 potential illegal listings as of April, although a number of these could be for stays in single-family homes or other units that are exempt from fines. And this week, the first hosts to be fined for illegal listings under the new law paid the city $1,000 each, as reported by the Daily News. One woman, Yelena Yelagina was fined for renting out her Trump Tower apartment while President Trump resided there between his election and inauguration. The $300- $450-per-night rental never explicitly stated the address, but was described as “the most secure and unique building” and asked renters to be “politically neutral.”

The second woman fined rented out her Lower East Side city-subsidized affordable apartment on East Sixth Street, a building designated for low-income families. The host earned $446 each night for the unit. The city’s regulatory agreement with the affordable housing building prevents it from being used for anything but permanent housing. However, the host’s two-bath unit with a private deck was frequently rented, as her Airbnb page had more than 90 reviews. The fine was paid and the listing is no longer available.

Instead of attempting to investigate every single illegal listing, city officials plan to focus on owners of multi-unit buildings who basically start running an illegal hotel by listing short term rentals in multiple apartments. By issuing fines to enough hosts, inspectors hope to dissuade others from illegally listing their pads. Through this approach, hosts who advertise just one listing have a much better chance of getting away with it, and according to Airbnb, 96 percent of hosts fall into this category.

Despite protests from Airbnb over the new law, who says it unfairly piles together tenants who occasionally rent out their homes with illegal hotel operators, the city plans on strengthening their crackdown. As 6sqft recently covered, the mayor’s executive budget includes an extra $2.9 million in spending over the next two fiscal years to aid the efforts of Airbnb inspectors. The city will add 16 staffers to the 32-member team to help efforts in finding landlords who break state law.

In response, Airbnb said in a statement, “The decision to regulate home sharing by type of building is flawed and unfairly targets working New Yorkers. Alternatively, we support a common sense solution that cracks down on bad actors and guarantees safe environments for guests and hosts.”

[Via Crain’s]


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