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How to Use Airbnb Without Getting Evicted

Friday, July 11, 2014

Some New Yorkers have rented out rooms in their apartments on Airbnb Some New Yorkers have rented out rooms in their apartments on Airbnb (cercamon/flickr)

Airbnb, which allows people to rent out a room or home online, has turned into a worldwide hospitality industry, with 600,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. It’s a growing presence in New York City, but many politicians claim that the majority of Airbnb’s business here is illegal. New York State Senator Liz Krueger explains what is legal—and illegal—about using Airbnb in NYC, what the company is doing to try to change laws in Albany, and how that will affect landlords and tenants in the future.

When is hosting on Airbnb illegal? It is not illegal to host on Airbnb if you own a single family home or two family home, or rent out a room in your apartment while you stay there. But if you live in a permanent residential apartment building and rent out your entire apartment for less than thirty days, you are breaking the law. "And that’s the vast majority, we think, of listers on Airbnb,” Krueger said. “I can’t find a lease or bylaw in the city of New York that allows you to do short term subletting without permission from your board or your landlord. It violates state law… it violates zoning ordinances, it violates tax law.”

“Thousands of models” are removed from residential use as a result of short term rentals, Krueger said. “People go and rent [up to] 25 units, and just become entrepreneurial illegal hotellers,… Every single one of those units is being taken off the market for people desperately trying to find affordable housing.”

Hosting on Airbnb could lead to a rise in evictions for renters who might not know that they are breaking the law and their lease. “We have begged AirBNB and the other companies: put the laws up on the website,” Krueger said. “You have a legal obligation to let people know what they might be walking into.”

Neighbors are also affected. Krueger gives an example of a typical complaint: an elderly woman who knows everyone in the building, who tells Krueger: “now people I don’t know have keys to the building. They’re in my elevators. They’re partying late at night. I’m scared. There’s no one to complain to when things go wrong, because the person who’s supposed to be in that apartment isn’t.”

What are other affordable options for people who want to visit New York City? “I am hoping that the city, and this administration, will take seriously the proposal to create for-profit hostels,” Krueger said. “We actually have a law that doesn’t allow hostels, which are all over Europe and all over the country, which offer a safe hotel model at a lower cost.”

But some listeners were skeptical that housing laws are being enforced equally. Andrew from Brooklyn called in to say that landlords violate city law all the time and rarely get penalized, but the city is cracking down on Airbnb hosts. “I’m very suspicious how much this is being driven by the hotel industry, and politicians are taking the hotel money and doing their bidding.”

Guests:

Liz Krueger

The Morning Brief

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Comments [24]

Sam Iam from NYC

Ah, an additional thought: Near the end of the program (minute 33:30), Liz is adamant that people renting their vacant apartments out for a week or two while they are away "take units off the market ... and increases costs for everybody" ... Uhh, pardon Liz (and Leonard, are you asleep at the switch?) how on earth do you arrive at that conclusion???? She's clearly got an agenda here, and facts or logic will not stand in her path). From what I understand, Airbnb has been quite cooperative in expelling "bad actors" who maintain vacant apartments as hotels. It is deeply suspicious that the ordinary case of individual New Yorkers trying to get by with a few hundred extra dollars in their pockets by permitting someone else to stay in their apartments while they are away is not once addressed in the radio program. Liz is quite eager to enforce certain kinds of outdated and irrelevant laws but, as another caller made a point of saying, she has no interest in enforcing other equally valid laws relating to landlords and tenants. Airbnb guests are vetted, their identities are verified, their credit cards are on record; if they pose an actual threat to the security in New York, where are all of the reports of rapes, burglaries, murders, and vandalism? I mean seriously, my neighbor can invite their retarded ex-con violent-offender cousin to sleep on the couch and (yes Liz, give them a key ... you fool), and no one has anything to say about it. This sort of unfounded hysteria has only one source: The Hotel lobby, which would prefer to see thousands of empty apartments in Manhattan unused while they construct new hotels at huge expense and inefficiency to accommodate people who could easily make use of perfectly good apartments of ordinary New Yorkers trying to make their way in an exceedingly expensive environment. Yes, if a nice couple from the Netherlands is willing to pay my airfare in exchange for the use of my empty apartment so I can visit my relatives abroad, why exactly is this the thing that Liz feels merits her wrath? Our scumbag Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (who appears to be a Class A retrograde Luddite) is also hot to put the kibosh on Lyft as well (a service that helps people share rides to the airport, Ikea, etc) ... All in the service of protecting entrenched special interest to the disadvantage of the public at large (like we need more taxis with their TLC-mandateed LCD screens jammed 18" in front of our faces; that's our representative government at work? That's working for the people's interests?). I expect next they'll pass a law removing all public trash cans so they can hire a bunch of public servants to clean up after us. How absurd. This is not hard to legislate: allow fear-free sublets for a few weeks year for people's principal residence? This is not complicated. How on earth is it we allow these crippled minds to establish public policy on our behalf?

Jul. 12 2014 05:26 PM
Sam Iam from NYC

This is a bit absurd. I sublet my apartment a few weeks a year when I travel. What exactly is the problem with this? Why doesn't Liz address this? Why doesn't Liz address this? And her presentation is quite stilted, focusing only on apartments converted into full-time hotels. Further, she states that Airbnb refused the Attorney General's request for information about NYC rentals - this is really false; the Attorney General asked for all information relating to all Airbnb rentals, no matter if it was an individual renting an apartment for one weekend. The request was blatantly over-broad and Airbnb was absolutely correct to resist it. In fact, a judge ruled in favor of Airbnb on this matter. Leonard, please do your homework and challenge your guests on occasion. Better, have a well-informed guest on to discuss the absurd antiquated "laws" that Liz is so seemingly upset about. We've been presented with only one side of the story.

Jul. 12 2014 09:55 AM
CurlyV from Kensington, Brooklyn

I lived below a tenant who was using her apartment as an airbnb hotel room. It was awful. There was noise all night long and constant coming and going of total strangers. Not to mention the elevated risk that untold numbers of strangers having keys to our building posed. And to think of the increased vectors of bed bugs that could be introduced to the building. Oh my God, I am so, so opposed to airbnb for those who live in apartment buildings. Because, seriously, I live in an apartment building. NOT a hotel. Enormous difference. If you live in a stand alone home that does not remotely affect your neighbors, then fine, be an airbnb host. Otherwise, this New Yorker is firmly opposed to airbnb for quality of life issues. Those subway posters do NOT reflect my opinion on the matter.

Jul. 12 2014 01:31 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Until you can get the zoning laws in certain areas or buildings to be changed, these hotels are illegal. Don't blame anyone else, blame the zoning board for that. All Eric Schneiderman, who is the state attorney general, was doing about Air B&B was enforcing the laws, which is his job. I find it annoying that anyone who is against this hates the free market or works with the hotel lobbyists. This is about those breaking zoning regulations. Why should someone be allowed to pay for an apartment that they are only using to rent out to those making vacations? It's one thing to sublet, it's another to make it into a business, and they can be evicted by the landlords for that especially for violating their ownership or rentals of their property.

Jul. 11 2014 03:19 PM
Maury M from Brooklyn

I live in AirbnB central: Williamsburg and have watched the flow closely in my building and others. Many strangers with keys. This is nyc - I'm used to, um, social asymmetry and disruption. "Deal with it!" is usually the guiding ideology for the kinds of disruptions this brings - mainly boorish young tourists of means. Lots more Russian and French being spoken on Wmsbrg streets these days.

At the core, it seems that the most serious of complaints has to do with protecting an upper middle nyc lifestyle (for petsitting, or to defray costs on my park slope, williamsburg apt.). That's an honest concern, but a level high above the concerns voiced by the woman on the show. Vulnerable populations are squeezed.

The fact that she is accused of being backed by hotels is telling. The real crux of the conflict is driven by the hotel class of traveler. If hotels benefit, so be it.

"...when you take an affordable apartment off the market in New York City it costs the city to replace that unit, at minimum, $500,000. So $21 million in hotel occupancy tax is 42 affordable units. In New York City we’re talking about the loss of thousands of residential housing units. We’re talking about the fact that every time a residential unit is lost it ups the rental cost of other units." http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/qa-new-york-senator-liz-krueger-airbnbs-doubter-in-chief

AirBnB is just one more symptom of the division of opportunity in major cities. Not an occasion to demonize a good idea, but still an occasion for one particular, competing business, i.e. the city, to look out for its customers, too... residents. All residents.

Jul. 11 2014 02:15 PM
Maury M from Brooklyn

I live in AirbnB central: Williamsburg and have watched the flow closely in my building and others. Many strangers with keys. This is nyc - I'm used to, um, social asymmetry and disruption. "Deal with it!" is usually the guiding ideology for the kinds of disruptions this brings - mainly boorish young tourists of means. Lots more Russian and French being spoken on Wmsbrg streets these days.

At the core, it seems that the most serious of complaints has to do with protecting an upper middle nyc lifestyle (for petsitting, or to defray costs on my park slope, williamsburg apt.). That's an honest concern, but a level high above the concerns voiced by the woman on the show. Vulnerable populations are squeezed.

The fact that she is accused of being backed by hotels is telling. The real crux of the conflict is driven by the hotel class of traveler. If hotels benefit, so be it.

"...when you take an affordable apartment off the market in New York City it costs the city to replace that unit, at minimum, $500,000. So $21 million in hotel occupancy tax is 42 affordable units. In New York City we’re talking about the loss of thousands of residential housing units. We’re talking about the fact that every time a residential unit is lost it ups the rental cost of other units." http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/qa-new-york-senator-liz-krueger-airbnbs-doubter-in-chief

AirBnB is just one more symptom of the division of opportunity in major cities. Not an occasion to demonize a good idea, but still an occasion for one particular, competing business, i.e. the city, to look out for its customers, too... residents. All residents.

Jul. 11 2014 02:12 PM
Manhattan resident from Manhattan

Point 1: I am lucky to live in a rental building with 24-doormen. My rent pays for that security; their job is to keep strangers out of the building. But now anyone can go through the INTERNET and gain access to our building by renting one of the illegal hotels. We all know which apartments these are; the tenant of record advertises openly. I do not feel safe, as criminal elements can now gain access to the building. Point 2: We have reported the situation to 311 and enforcement has tried to gain access to the building; the doormen, under instruction from the landlord, have refused them entry. So we know the landlord is in on it. QUESTION: What are next enforcement steps? Point 3: these illegal squatters are using services. They fill the elevators, lobby, and laundry room. Do we have recourse with the Housing Authority?

Jul. 11 2014 02:08 PM
Evelyn from Brooklyn

I live in a private house. In renewing my homeowners insurance this year there is a question "does this location contain any of the following ineligible risks: B&B, short term leases, SRO's temporary shelters ....". I discussed this with the underwriter and was told that if any paying guest was injured in my home my homeowners insurance would not cover me. We never had a clause like this in the past 12 years so I am guessing this is in response to insurers concerns about the increased risks to them from Air B&B rentals. If we want to participate in Air B&B and be covered by insurance we would have to purchase a commercial policy. I am planning to look into what this would cost us so I can see if it is financially worth participating in Air B&B. But renters and co-op owners should also look into what kind of personal liability risks they are exposing themselves to if they are doing Air B&B rentals without the proper insurance.

Jul. 11 2014 02:06 PM
e from bk

Sen Liz Crouger? Now that I know her from this show..I will never support or vote for her.
She's all over the place. She supports the realtor that calls, and she says that people are legal as long as their neighbor doesn't complain? One of the callers was renting and subletting her place. Liz said you're ok as long as the neigbor doesn't complain. She's just after AB&B. And absolutely for the hotel industry. I'm sure she gets donations from them.

Lenny, you could have pressed her even more.

Jul. 11 2014 02:03 PM
Jeff

Your guest claims that there are "tens of thousands" of entrepreneurial AirBnB owners. She also acknowledges that she has no data backing up that claim. It's disappointing to me Leonard that that claim slide; a segment that professes to "explain" issues should not allow politicians to make numbers up. I'm also disappointed that Leonard didn't challenge her on the degree to which she receives campaign contributions from the hotel industry. Both of these on a segment that is supposed to "explain" are journalistically negligent.

Jul. 11 2014 01:54 PM
dan k from park slope

Because zoning laws haven't created greater density, the city has become unaffordable to most of us. One of the few ways we can defray these costs is by renting out our apartments on Air BnB. I don't think you should be able to do so if you don't own the place, but if you do, and you notify your neighbors that you're doing so, I don't see anything reasonably objectionable

Jul. 11 2014 01:51 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

And not for nothing, but that headline is misleading/clickbait. Bravo, Lopate producers!

Jul. 11 2014 01:44 PM
lisa from harlem

I can nt reallly afford my little 1br in harlem-it would be nice to be able to supplement a bit-my landlord hasn't done repairs to windows, has not given heat often, hot water-Ive made a lovely place despite all of this-its a shame there is not some way to be able to a few days a month be able to do this legally.
also I am afraid to tell my landlord that I have to sublet for next month (I actually charge less!)-beacuse I am afraid he will somehow use it to evict me-tenants don't have a lot of actual rights-on the books never helped my heat situation-you have to report on 311 with your name

Jul. 11 2014 01:42 PM
Gladys from LIC

My rent stabilized apartment was destroyed in a fire several and we wound up moving to a market rate apartment. We have been unable to find affordable rent and since and every year our rent goes up 10% or more. We are considering offering one room on Airbnb to help pay the rent several times a month to make ends meet.

Jul. 11 2014 01:42 PM

If I lived in a small building with no security, I would be outraged to have other residents using Airbnb.

Jul. 11 2014 01:42 PM
jc

Apartment dwellers may be helped by renting their apartments and hotel owners may be greedy but hotels employ people, albeit at low wages and they pay taxes. Its not good if those employees lose their jobs and need social services the rest of us pay for. If the city loses income the rest of us have to make up the difference in the taxes we pay, including those on coops and condos, which are already huge.

Jul. 11 2014 01:41 PM
Amy

A friend of mine owns a condo in a 4 unit building in Brooklyn. One of her neighbors (who was having financial difficulties) rented out his apartment on AirBnB without telling his fellow owners. The people who rented the apartment caused a great deal of disruption for the other residents -- demanding entry to the building, ringing the doorbell at odd hours etc. It was a great struggle /stress for the folks who live in the building, but they were able to get the offending owner to rent his unit out legally.

Jul. 11 2014 01:39 PM
resident alien from Williamsburg

I can understand all sides and I see room for a compromise: i.e.

1. a tenant can only airbnb 1 apt (the one s/he lives in.
2. only for a maximum of 8 weeks per year and only a maximum of 1 or 2 years within 10 years.

it shouldn't be too hard to have airbnb enforce these two rules and give landlords the right to be informed and in case of violation to sue.
problem solved! ;-)

Jul. 11 2014 01:37 PM
Gosha

Hi,

What happens if you travel for a living and own animals that need to be looked after for a month or more at a time? Pet hotels cost a fortune, and I find that subletting the apartment to a sitter at a chapter price is my only solution. What do you think?

Jul. 11 2014 01:36 PM
Hazel from Manhattan

Please do not use my name. Stuyvesant Town now has large numbers of individuals and groups rolling their luggage and baggage, looking lost, trying to find their temporary apartment. Building elevators are now shared with renters and short-term guests. These transients are certainly not vested in maintaining quality of life issues in a residential development. Briefly, noise has been uncomfortable, a breakdown of of general sanitary awareness is now the norm; and overall safety is threatened. It is not what tenants expected when we signed our lease and thought we were living in a solid community. The worst part of all this, is those who are running Stuyvesant Town/Peter Village gives their blessings to this arrangement.

Jul. 11 2014 01:36 PM
resident alien from Williamsburg

I can understand all sides and I see room for a compromise: i.e.

1. a tenant can only airbnb 1 apt (the one s/he lives in.
2. only for a maximum of 8 weeks per year and only a maximum of 1 or 2 years within 10 years.

it shouldn't be too hard to have airbnb enforce these two rules and give landlords the right to be informed and in case of violation to sue.
problem solved! ;-)

Jul. 11 2014 01:36 PM

AirBNB participants appear to break so many NYC laws. Leonard appears to side with them.

Jul. 11 2014 01:35 PM
anon from New York, New York

I am increasingly angered by the so-called "sharing" economy and AirBNB's aggressive advertising campaign around the city. With wage stagnation and high levels of income inequality, the sharing economy seems like another way for corporate interests to profit. This does not help low or middle income New Yorkers--it only helps overvalued tech companies, which only increases our income inequality problem.

Jul. 11 2014 01:30 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

I live in an incredibly large rental building in Manhattan, and every Friday, we see a number of people arriving with suitcases, clearly there to stay the weekend or week. Some neighbors are not only suspecting other neighbors are renting via AirBnB, but that the building looks the other way, via doormen not savvy or willing to report suspicion.

While we wouldn't want any of our neighbors to get in trouble legally, we do feel it makes our building less secure.

Are our concerns best reported to the management company, 311, or both? How can this be tracked in such a large building?

Jul. 11 2014 01:30 PM

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