The Days of Airbnb in Manhattan Could be Numbered as Stiff Fines For Short Term Rentals Hit Legislature

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This sweet one-bedroom penthouse apartment in Williamsburg will be illegal to list via Airbnb of the new law passes. (photo via Airbnb)
This sweet one-bedroom penthouse apartment in Williamsburg will be illegal to list via Airbnb of the new law passes. (photo via Airbnb)

If you’ve been pining for a budget trip to New York, you better hop on it.

The state’s short-term rental law (called the multiple-dwelling law, which went into affect in 2010) prohibits leaseholders from renting entire properties or units without occupying the space at the same time for fewer than 30 days. Basically, you can’t rent an entire apartment out on Airbnb, but you can rent a room as long as you’re there at the same time, and the renter is able to access the whole space. Now, subleasing to someone for a month? That’s cool.

According to data from Airbnb, about 60 percent of their New York City listings are actually illegal, with leaseholders offering entire apartments to renters. And the New York state legislature is ready to crack down on scofflaws, according to the Real Deal, which could mean fines from $1,000 to $7,500 for those who list entire units on short-term rental sites such as Airbnb and VRBO.

“I’m elated,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), the chief sponsor in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, according to TRD. “You should know who your neighbor is and what happens when people rent out their apartments on Airbnb is you get strangers. Every night there could be a different person sleeping in the next apartment and it shatters that sense of community in the building. It also can be dangerous.”

Of course, not everyone agrees with these stiff penalties and fines, as many New Yorkers have turned to Airbnb to afford life in the Big Apple, which is increasingly expensive. According to TechCrunch, as many as 31,000 NYC residents could lose their homes if this bill becomes law:

“It’s disappointing — but not surprising — to see politicians in Albany cut a last-minute deal with the hotel industry that will put 30,000 New Yorkers at greater risk of bankruptcy, eviction or foreclosure,” Airbnb Head of New York Public Policy Josh Meltzer said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Let’s be clear: this is a bad proposal that will make it harder for thousands of New Yorkers to pay the bills. Dozens of governments around the world have demonstrated that there is a sensible way to regulate home sharing and we hope New York will follow their lead and protect the middle class.”

We’ve heard horror stories of people renting units and subdividing the floorplans to accommodate up to 10 people in a three-bedroom apartment, against their lease agreements, might we add. It’s disputed whether those taking advantage of the apartment-share economy are in the majority, though, as few facts or figures regarding their proportion of the market are available. Heck, an entire company was founded to seek out illegal subletting and report them to the authorities, so there’s really no telling how big of a burden professional Airbnb hosts are.

What do you think of apartment-sharing website Airbnb and this proposed law?

Reader Interactions


  1. Karen Eubank says

    Its b.s. I’ve used Air b n b all over the world. It allows people to spend their dollars on OTHER things in the city they visit besides hotels. NYC and other places are making more money in the long run because a new stream of people that would never be able to afford hotels are now traveling. They are cutting off their noses to spite their faces and it will backfire. People will still do this, they will just do it illegally. All of these things boil down to corporate greed. The hotel industry has heavy hitters who line the pockets of politicians. It’s all a game and the little guy loses… again.

  2. Kris Kennedy Mahon says

    Short term rentals are illegal in New Orleans as well. Yet, you can find several properties listed for rent on VRBO or Airbnb. To Karen’s point, yes they still do it illegally and the city does nothing to enforce the law. I rented a couple of places in the French Quarter before we bought a place on Royal St. Now that I am a homeowner and a tax payer in the fabulous French Quarter, the short term rental business brings up different feelings for me. I have seen short term rentals force long time residents of the Quarter out due to rising rents. Owners can make more money with short term rentals than they can with their long time tenants. It has lasting effects on the neighborhood. Yes, the French Quarter is a neighborhood. Several resident groups are protesting and even the annual event Tales of the Cocktail has asked all of its attendees not to do business with these short term rentals. Displacing residents is one thing, but there are so many other issues with these short term rentals where no management is on site and temporary tenants have no respect for the units they rent, much less the neighbors who live in the buildings. And, good Lord, let’s not forget the parking problems it causes given the lack of parking available in the Quarter to start with. Before we call B.S. on limiting short term rentals, thinking that the states or cities just want more revenue for their coffers, let’s think about the neighborhoods. This is a debate where both sides have solid arguments, but looking at it from just the side of the landlord and tenant is short sided, Let’s think about the people who call that neighborhood their home as well.