Established in 2008, Airbnb is an online marketplace for short- and long-term homestays and experiences. The company acts as a broker and charges a commission from each booking.
Airbnb as a company has had its share of problems over the years:
- When the FBI had to get involved in a rental gone wrong
- A plethora of hosts who have hidden cameras on their properties (here’s how to find them)
And some Airbnb hosts have put themselves in their own hot water, too:
- The one who rented former slaves’ quarters
- The Airbnb ad that included fat shaming
- The host who was either passive-aggressive or a clean freak
And don’t forget the couple who got revenge on their Airbnb host who wouldn’t cancel a booking.
Because of multiple problems Airbnbs can cause in terms of housing and rent, many cities have specific rules about Airbnb (one country has even outlawed Airbnb rentals entirely). New York City has had skirmishes with the company that go as far back as October, 2013. Skift went into detail on each event, but some of the highlights in the past decade include:
- October, 2013: The first investigation that suggested many Airbnb hosts violate the state’s short-term rental laws.
- February, 2014: It’s approximated that two-thirds of Airbnbs in NYC are illegal
- November, 2015: NYC planned to spend $10 million to regulate Airbnb and hotels, as well as launch a public awareness campaign
- June, 2016: NY State legislators pass a law that would heavily fine short term rental hosts for listings that violate the state’s short-term rental laws
- July, 2018: NYC requires Airbnb to disclose data on hosts
- August, 2018: Airbnb sues NYC
- January, 2019: Judge blocks law passed in July, 2018
- June, 2020: NYC & Airbnb reach settlement; the company will provide hosts’ contact information. Hosts who didn’t consent to having their data sent would be barred from listing their properties on the platform
- March, 2023: NYC added 2,300 buildings to its Prohibit Buildings list, those where short term rentals were forbidden by request of building owners
- June, 2023: Airbnb sues NYC
- August, 2023: Judged dismissed the June, 2023 lawsuit
There were significantly more things that happened between NYC and Airbnb during that time frame (click here to see them all). But effective tomorrow, September 5th, the laws for staying at an Airbnb in New York City will be enforced and most will make things more difficult for both hosts and guests:
- No more than 2 paying guests can stay in any short-term rental at any time, regardless of the size of the dwelling or the number of bedrooms.
- Hosts must be physically present while their properties are being rented.
- Hosts and visitors must leave all doors inside the dwelling unlocked, so occupants can access the entire unit.
In other words:
- if you’re a family of 3 or more, you can’t rent an Airbnb in NYC. Hosts also can’t rent to more than 2 parties (and even those would both have to be parties of 1. A couple and a single wouldn’t be OK).
- Hosts and guests would have to essentially be roommates.
- Hosts wouldn’t be able to lock off part of a house.
Remember that most Airbnbs in NYC aren’t whole houses; they’re apartments or singular bedrooms within apartments. So if you’re staying in one bedroom of an apartment, the host would be living in another bedroom. And neither bedroom could be locked (except when it’s in use). So you can lock the bathroom door while you’re using it, but the tenant can’t lock their room and go out for the day. In other words, the host can go into the guest bedroom and the guest can go into the host’s bedroom.
How many people are going to want to live like that?
Anyway, according to the law, homeowners and apartment dwellers who want to list their property on Airbnb, VBRO, or other platforms that offer short-term rentals are required to register with the Office of Special Enforcement (OSE). The application fee is $145. If the department approves the filing, it will issue a registration number that will appear on the host’s online listing. As of August 28th, OSE said it has received 3,250 applications, of which it has reviewed 808 submissions, granted 257 certificates, rejected 72 and returned 479 for additional information or to correct deficiencies.
Also as of August 28th, the office has also received over 10,000 submissions to be added to its Prohibited Building List.
And if you rent illegally? Fines for hosts can range from $100 to $1,000 for a first violation. Guests won’t incur penalties for staying at an illegal property.
Airbnb, of course, is not happy.
“It has long been our goal to work with New York City to create sensible home-sharing regulations for our host community, and for the better part of the last decade, we have worked hard to find a path forward,” Theo Yedinsky, Airbinb’s global policy director, said in a statement. “New York City’s new short-term rental rules are a blow to its tourism economy. . . The city is sending a clear message to millions of potential visitors who will now have fewer accommodation options when they visit New York City: You are not welcome.”
NYC officials claim their visitors are always welcome, but they also want to keep them safe, while also protecting the neighborhoods where these rentals are:
“There are many factors that help keep New York neighborhoods vibrant, stable and livable. In neighborhoods where homes are being used for short-term rentals illegally, the comfort and safety of permanent residents and visitors alike is at risk. In these neighborhoods, the stock of available housing diminishes, and the distinctive character of the community changes.
“Illegal short-term rentals can be dangerous for neighbors, guests, and first responders. They can lack proper fire safety systems such as alarms and sprinklers, and may not have enough exits in the event of an emergency. Many permanent residential buildings do not have adequate security personnel to deal with travelers. Illegal short-term rentals often present issues with noise, litter and personal safety, and compromise the comfort of permanent residents.”
The city’s Office of Special Enforcement has said it won’t clamp down in the early days of the law going into effect. They will work with platforms that are trying to get into compliance, and may not issue fines against unregistered hosts at the beginning (unless their violations are “egregious”).
However Skift estimated that Airbnb might lose more than 70% of its 23,000 active listings as of September 5.
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