Air Bnb Declared Illegal in NYC

May 21st, 2013, 06:37 AM
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Air Bnb Declared Illegal in NYC

We had a lot of discussion of Air BnB at times in these forums, particularly as it relates to New York City, where sublets of less than 30 days are illegal. Well, a court has now declared that Air BnB cannot operate legally in NYC because of this law. Here's a link: http://tinyurl.com/kzs2dql

Since this is now a court order (it will almost certainly be appealed, but I have no idea if the company will win), I suspect the site will have to take down all NYC listings, at least for now.
doug_stallings is offline  
May 21st, 2013, 06:50 AM
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cd
 
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Are there other states that have the same law?
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May 21st, 2013, 07:04 AM
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Other than Paris (which has the same law as NYC, though it is widely flouted), I'm not aware of any city that has these kids of laws, but San Francisco is considering something.

It's still not clear to me what precisely will happen in the near term here, but it's clear that the court has indicated that AirBnB rentals are illegal here.

I should have been a bit clearer. The court did not order that AirBnB must take down all NYC listings, but since all AirBnB rentals are now officially in violation of NY law, I can't see many other options.
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May 21st, 2013, 08:34 AM
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It was only a matter of time. And with an increasing number of legitimate tenants making complaints about transients I think the illegal sublet market is going to be dicier and dicier.
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May 21st, 2013, 09:40 AM
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Frankly, I always felt Air BnB was dicey, and would never use it.
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May 21st, 2013, 10:11 AM
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" but since all AirBnB rentals are now officially in violation of NY law, I can't see many other options."

Well, actually they have been in violation of the law since the law was enacted. AirBNB has been lobbying to change the law so now someone is saying to their face that they're illegal whereas before they would claim ignorance. Of course how and why would they bother fighting the law if they didn't think it was against them? And the other listing sites are equally aware, but you don't see them taking down their listings

I'm not sure if the ruling affects all of AirBNB's rentals, including "hosted" ones. Any details on that aspect?
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May 21st, 2013, 10:37 AM
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"Hosted" is still illegal. One is not allowed to sublet or rent apts for less than 30 days in New York.

You can have family or friends to visit FOR FREE - but if money is changing hands it is illegal (unless this is house wholly owned by the renter who wishes to rent a room - NOT a multiple family dwelling.)

And the instance of that situation in Manhattan is VERY small. Most people who own a $5 million plus townhouse don't want to rent out a spare bedroom and have strangers tramping around their house.
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May 21st, 2013, 10:47 AM
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Actually hosted was NOT always clear as it is not a case of "sublet or rent apts " The bigger issue there is the building management or board not allowing it. And though I agree that most people in fancy buildings don't want to share an apt with a stranger, there will always be some who do. You may "own" a $5 million townhouse, but still have huge mortgage or other expenses. Not to mention people who just like the concept of having visitors, even if they're paid ones.
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May 21st, 2013, 11:37 AM
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This is a surprisingly large facet of AirBnB's success.
It's also the case that some people have a garage apartment, or an apartment over their business, or a second apartment in the same building that they are happy to rent out. Granted, this would be rare in NYC, but it explains how people are comfortable renting to strangers, given that they are not literally sharing this personal living space.
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May 21st, 2013, 01:20 PM
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This is the sort of question that arises normally only for large cities with densely packed populations. When people live cheek by jowl like that, chances for friction arise exponentially.

For those in the rest of the country who own their own homes and don't have condominium/apartment associations dictating their lives, these frictions don't arise.

In this case, the finding of the Administrative Judge, apparently a lawyer practicing Environmental law in New York, that "boarders and lodgers" couldn't be "strangers" with no "relationship" with the residents is a bit odd.

After all, if a person rents out his apartment for more than 30 days - apparently legal in NY - then this "boarder" or "lodger" could be a "stranger" with no "relationship" with the residents.

Or maybe it was that the people who rented from Warren didn't speak with him nor with his roommate, so they were "strangers". The cautionary tale then would be that someone in the household exchange some words with the potential airbnb renters, then these renters wouldn't be "strangers" any more.

Sorry, I don't get it. But then I don't live in New York, cheek by jowl with my neighbors and governed by arbitrary condo "laws".

This is just another shot fired in this controversial area and relates only to airbnb in NY, not elsewhere in the world where apparently it's pretty successful as well. I've not used airbnb overseas as I prefer local resources in country. I have used airbnb a couple of times in the US but only in the West and have found the hosts/hostesses to be more than acccommodating and friendly. Absolutely no problems.
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May 21st, 2013, 01:31 PM
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"Boarders" and "Lodgers" by definition have a "relationship" with the landlord.
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May 21st, 2013, 03:50 PM
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Not necessarily. There are plenty of hi tech - techies in particular - people who have to go on a temporary overseas assignment and so sublet their room/apartment/house to someone else without ever exchanging a word with that person. Sometimes the roommate handles everything. If it is an apartment/house, then a neighbor or a relative may be handling all matters.

There's no "relationship" whatsoever in situations like this, but if it for over 30 days, it's legal in NY.

Tabernash: you need to elaborate a bit more on your perennial one-liners without always being afraid of what would happen if you wrote more than one line.
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May 21st, 2013, 04:52 PM
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"Sorry, I don't get it. But then I don't live in New York, cheek by jowl with my neighbors and governed by arbitrary condo "laws". "

This ruling and the law behing it have nothing to do with condo or coop law. In fact even before this law was enacted, most condo or coop boards had very strict rules about letting someone stay in your apartment for pay, whether for 2 days or for 2 months. My building wouldn't allow it for 31 days even though that's "legal".
Rental apartments are also subject to whatever rules (unless illegal, like discrimination)the landlord puts in your lease. Most rental places do not want or allow short term sub-rentals but this is less strictly enforced since the owners don't necessariuly live in the building and know what's going on , And if a renter gets thrown out, he usually just finds another rental. Being thrown out of your coop or condo is a much more serious problem.In a coop or condo, everyone who lives there is an owner so for better or worse(a little of both actually) things run differently.

My problem with AirBNB is that they clearly knew that a portion of their listings were inherently illegal, yet they allowed them to be listed . This wasn't an obscure law in Croatia that no one had ever heard of, but a well publicized hotly debated topic. The fact that they continued to allow it (and without any specific disclaimer) tell me something about the ethics of the company, and in my opinion hints at the type of service you might get if you have a complaint. It's not a company I would choose to do business with.
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May 21st, 2013, 05:32 PM
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It's by no means just condos and coops.

Most landlords have very strict requirements to rent an apartment long-term - and the other residents of the building have a right to safety and security of tenants who have met the requirements of the landlord - or are friends or relatives that these people know and are responsible for. Not random strangers wandering in and out of their personal residence.
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May 21st, 2013, 05:32 PM
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Croatia is set to join the EU in slightly over a month. By then it will have in place many "obscure" EU laws.

nyer, I understand your making a distinction between public law and private covenants.

We've been through this before, several times. It's always with NY. (I mean "we all" not you and me)

I don't understand why you have a problem with airbnb listing places for rent in NY while the meaning of the public law was being debated.

If a tenant or an owner breaks a private covenant with a condo association/renting agency, that's one thing. However, this controversy over the NY city public law is another matter.

This decision was based not on the breaking of a private agreement but based on this particular judge's interpretation of public law.

All I'm saying is that this isn't the end of the matter. It's a lot more complex than it seems and for some NYers to blast airbnb for everything it's doing is to apply the NY situation to the rest of the world.
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May 21st, 2013, 06:28 PM
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Easytraveler, I don't blast AirBNB for everything,I just said I don't like the way they do business including overlooking illegal activity that they are completely aware of.

"I don't understand why you have a problem with airbnb listing places for rent in NY while the meaning of the public law was being debated. "

My understanding is that the law existed and it was being willfully violated. The only debatable parts are that 1) some people don't think the law is just , that it punishes people who just want to earn a few extra bucks, so they fight to have it overturned or narrowed . I have no objections to trying to change a law, but respect it while it is still standing.
2) The "hosted" situation covered by this legal action might be a gray area. The judge decided that it is covered by the law. But there was no gray area about unhosted apartments, and AirBNB and others have continued to advertise those, too.
To me, and I've said it's an opinion, that indicates a business model I find unappealing, even if the majorityy of their operation is above board.

I'm not sure that the law itself is the best solution, but I still won't support companies that violate it. And when something is illegal, people may get caught in a scam or dangerous or unpleasant situations with no recourse.
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May 21st, 2013, 07:03 PM
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FWIW, many condo associations across the US prohibit short-term rentals. Mine does, with the definition of "short-term" being anything less than a year. The problem I have with AirBnB is that they dissociate themselves from anything that may go wrong with a rental with a big disclaimer, even though they know that some percentage of the listings are illegal. I just disapprove of the business model, which places the majority of the risk on the lessee, the rest on the lessor, and none on the company that brought them together.
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May 21st, 2013, 07:04 PM
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nyer: I didn't say you were one who blasted everything airbnb does, but there have been several recent "articles" which have nothing good to say about airbnb based solely on what is happening in NY.

My understanding is that the law existed and it was being willfully violated.

That may be your understanding but whether it is being "willfully violated" is still a question. There are apparently two pertinent sections (we've been through those two sections on this forum) and the two sections are not entirely clear. That's why there is controversy. That's why some people interpret it one way and other people interpret it another. That's why some people don't feel like they are "willfully violating" that law and others feel like they are. So, it's not as if there's absolute clarity and that all or most people can agree on what it means.

Again, I disagree with you on the "hosted" versus "unhosted". If the renter stays for over 30 days, even if it's unhosted, that's legal (provided there are no private covenants being violated). That 30-days or more part of the law is not in controversy. The host could be in residence or the host could be in Timbuctoo, but as long as the renter is staying for 30 days or more, that's legal.

It's the under 30 days portion that is in controversy. Because space is at a premium in NY and landlords or sellers can command high prices, friction will develop over whether a renter/owner can rent out/"sublet" his room(s)/apartment for less than 30 days or not. Those who want to have fairly decent dwellings or not have a long commute or want something else will say that they can rent out for less than 30 days. Those opposed, like the hotels, will say they can't. This one decision by one judge will not end the controversy.

As for criticism of airbnb's business model, the new technology has generated new ways of doing business. In this respect, IMHO, Facebook has KNOWING violated a number of laws. I find that much more distasteful.
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May 21st, 2013, 07:31 PM
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Sorry, that's "knowingly"
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May 22nd, 2013, 03:50 AM
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The only one "debating" the meaning of the law is Air BnB. The state and city knew clearly what the law meant, as did most local residents.

Now a judge has clearly ruled that Air BnB is acting illegally. So - this judge isn't good enough? How many more judges do we need? How many more residents have to make complaints? Do we need to take this to the supreme court?

Air BnB can do whatever they want elsewhere. In NY the rentals they are offering are illegal - and they should just stop doing it. And people renting through them need to understand that what they are doing is illegal - and they have no recourse if they are not able to use the property they "rented".

Sometimes we all just have to follow the rules - even if we don't like them.
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