Astoria resident Michael Naess argued in last week’s Chronicle that he shouldn’t be prevented from renting out a spare bedroom in his condo on Airbnb (“Airbnb empowers New Yorkers,” Opinion, Dec. 12, multiple editions). But as one of the authors of the 2010 state law that enabled the city to take enforcement actions against illegal short-term rentals, I’d just like to make it clear: What Mr. Naess is doing isn’t illegal!
Mr. Naess wrote in his op-ed that he rents out his spare bedroom on Airbnb — as long as he’s home when that happens, it doesn’t violate the illegal hotel law. As far as the city and state are concerned, Mr. Naess, and the many other New Yorkers hosting guests in spare bedrooms, aren’t violating the illegal hotel law.
Airbnb has put its PR machine into overdrive to scare the New Yorkers hosting Airbnb guests, hoping they will push their elected officials to change the law in ways that will benefit Airbnb’s biggest source of revenue in New York: illegal hotel operators, the folks who take entire residential apartments and turn them into illegal hotel rooms.
The reality is, the illegal hotel law isn’t the real threat to everyday New Yorkers who occasionally host Airbnb guests. For one thing, if you’re just renting out part of your apartment and you’re home the whole time, then you’re not violating the law. (The law also does not apply to one- and two-family homeowners.) For another, the enforcement system is complaint-driven, and designed to target the worst offenders who are creating safety and quality-of-life problems for neighbors in their buildings.
The real threat to tenants and co-op/condo owners who host Airbnb guests is the fact that much of the time, they’re violating their leases or co-op/condo bylaws, and they can be evicted if they’re caught by their landlord or building management. I’ve asked Airbnb to clearly explain this risk to potential hosts in New York — it’s the responsible thing to do! Unfortunately, but maybe not surprisingly, they’ve refused.