A house where Airbnb guests stayed on Beechknoll Avenue in Little Neck has been removed from the rental website by the host and the building was hit last month with a vacate order from the Department of Buildings over its usage as a hotel.
The owner of 249-23 Beechknoll Ave., the cellar of which was being used as a living space, could not be reached for comment before deadline.
The building received three Environmental Control Board violations for occupancy contrary to the certificate of occupancy, work without a permit in the basement and failing to provide ingress and egress. They were issued on June 14 along with the vacate order, according to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement.
“The overwhelming majority of hosts in Queens are responsible home sharers who respect their neighbors and take pride in introducing visitors from around the world to their borough,” Airbnb said in an emailed statement to the Chronicle.
The company did not immediately respond when asked when the listing was removed.
Gov. Cuomo signed legislation last year banning advertisements for short-term rentals in “Class A” multiple dwellings. But it did not ban using Airbnb to rent a single-family homes like the one on Beechknoll Avenue or two-family ones.
Joining area residents at a press conference highlighting the situation at the Little Neck home last Friday, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) revealed plans to introduce two bills to regulate Airbnb. The “sharing economy” company’s rental system has infuriated many in his district, especially in the low-density community of Broadway-Flushing.
The lawmaker said that he would push a bill “to require anybody who does a short-term rental to have to register and certify with the respective agency, in this case with the Department of Buildings, that the house has absolutely no violations.” Those who did not would face “serious fines and/or a vacate order.”
Avella, who heard about the Beechknoll Avenue situation from Little Neck resident Vicki Cosgrove, spoke to the danger of people staying in houses with code violations. The ingress and egress rules that were broken are meant to promote fire safety.
“Clearly, this is an abomination that somebody’s attracting people that may be from outside the state or outside the country to live in a home that’s not safe,” said the senator, who reached out to the DOB and urged Airbnb to remove the listing after learning about the situation.
Cosgrove, who joined Avella at the press conference, said that homes using Airbnb can be bad for the area’s quality of life.
“It’s an issue of neighborhood safety,” she said, adding that police had been to the home on Beechknoll Avenue.
“Consumer protection,” Avella said, is the aim of the second bill he intends to introduce. The legislation would prevent Airbnb from forcing users to pay a fee to see the address of a home that they are interested in renting; even if the customer does not end up paying to stay there, they still pay the “sharing economy” company money to see the location.
“Suppose you pay a fee and then the actual address pops up and you look at the house and say, ‘I don’t want to stay there,’” the senator said. “It’s sort of a backwards approach to this.”
Airbnb, which has been frustrated by legislation regulating it in New York State, said it would be open to meeting with Avella.
“We welcome the opportunity to meet with Sen. Avella to discuss how hosting helps middle class families and how we can work together to support legislation that would change the law to protect good hosts and weed out bad actors,” the company said.