New Research Shows More Than 58 Percent of NYC Airbnb Listings Possibly Illegal

Posted On Wed, February 11, 2015 By

Posted On Wed, February 11, 2015 By In City Living, Policy

Photo courtesy of Airbnb via Facebook

Airbnb has been under constant scrutiny in recent months, whether for its potential threat to the affordable housing market or the fallout for bed and breakfasts forced to shutter in the wake of the battle. Now, new research from Capital New York shows that more than 58 percent of New York City’s Airbnb listings could be illegal, as they are for “entire apartments or houses, meaning no one else would be present during a stay.”

According to a state multiple dwelling law that was introduced in 2010, it’s illegal to lease homes (excluding one- and two-family homes) for less than 30 days when the owner or tenant isn’t present. But Capital found that of the 15,977 apartments listings on Airbnb, only one cites a requirement for a stay longer than a month. While the data isn’t conclusive on how many listings could be exempt from the law, more than 10,000 listings are in Manhattan where single-family residences are less likely.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has accused Airbnb of violating rental and zoning laws, and his office published a report in October, using data supplied by the company, which found that 72% of the units listed on Airbnb appeared to violate one or several state and city laws. Another set of research conducted by the Hotel and Motel Trades Council found that 77% of Airbnb listings were illegal, totaling $3.6 million in possible revenue, compared with just $1 million from listings that offered only single rooms for rent. This analysis also points out that 16,000 full-apartment listings were available for rent on an average of 247 days a year, suggesting that these are not the homes of full-time New Yorkers, but rather owners or landlords using their properties as illegal hotels. The newest set of data used by Capital was collected by Murray Cox, a documentary photographer and activist who runs the website Inside Airbnb. He says he used data from 27,392 listings that were on the site between January 1st and 3rd of this year.

Airbnb Founders
Airbnb founders (L-R) Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky

According to Capital, “The company declined to comment specifically on the findings, other than to suggest the information was inaccurate and reiterate that it feels existing laws are being misapplied.” A spokesperson for Airbnb said: “We do not comment on public scrapes of our information, because, like here, these scrapes use inaccurate information to make misleading assumptions about our community. Thousands of regular New Yorkers are using Airbnb everyday to help make ends meet. That’s why it is so important that we fix local laws to allow people to share the home in which they live.”

But recent emails from Airbnb to those on its mailing list imply a “rallying the troops” mentality. One email says:

Four weeks ago, we met on the steps of City Hall and told policy makers why Airbnb is great for New York. Now, with the upcoming legislative session in Albany, we’d like to give you an update on our strategy moving forward. Please join us on Friday, February 13th, at 12:00 PM for a webinar with David Hantman, Airbnb’s Head of Global Public Policy. You are the heart of our community, and so your thoughts and perspectives are incredibly important.

What are your thoughts on the Airbnb debate?

[Related: Manhattan Bed and Breakfasts Are Forced to Close in the Wake of the Airbnb Battle]

[Related: Home and Away: Is Airbnb a Threat to the Affordable Housing Market?]

[Related: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em Join ‘Em: Hotels Attempt to Emulate Airbnb Amidst Competition]

[Via Capital NY]

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