Airbnb And The Hotel Industry

New York City Is Using Sheriffs and Obscure Building Code Violations to Crack Down on Airbnb - Quartz

Excerpt from Quartz

Shortly after Nan Doyle stepped out for brunch on Labor Day, three men with badges rang the bell to her apartment in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood.

Doyle's Airbnb guest answered. He was staying with her in the three-story brownstone she bought with her husband in 1998. The badged men asked if they could speak with the owner and, when the guest said she was out, they asked whether he was renting the apartment. The man said yes, he and his family had booked it through Airbnb. The badged men then asked if they could enter to inspect the building's sprinkler system, which they said might violate New York City's building codes. When the Airbnb guest refused, they wrote out four civilsummonses.

Doyle, 55, learned about the visit later that afternoon from her guests, a family with three small children visiting from California. She inspected one of the summonses: "lack of a system of automatic sprinklers... in transient occupied building." The papers listed a hearing date in October but no fines. Four days later, on Friday, Sept. 8, Doyle received another visit, this time from a pair of sheriffs. They served her with two more summonses: one for listing the property on Airbnb and the other for listing it on vacation-rental site VRBO. Each carried a fine of $1,000.

New York state in October 2016 passed some of the toughest restrictions on short-term rentals in the country. In most of New York City, it's now illegal to advertise or rent an entire apartment on a platform like Airbnb for less than 30 days unless the host is present and there are only one or two guests.

The legislation was billed as helping the city crack down on landlords and other "bad actors" who were taking permanent housing off the market by renting out residential units to tourists on VRBO and Airbnb. The intent was to prevent commercial landlords from turning themselves into illegal hotels through Airbnb and other sites. The legislation was backed by the hotel lobby as well as affordable housing advocates.

But a year later, regular New Yorkers who never intended to become commercial landlords or hoteliers say the crackdown on short-term rentals is also targeting them.

"The city has said they are trying to rid Airbnb of bad actors—the people who are renting out entire buildings or blocks of apartments, the absentee landlords," Doyle told Quartz. "That's not that case for me. I'm always here when my guests are here. I always personally greet them, buy them breakfast, talk to them. It's the opposite of what this special enforcement division has said they want to go after." 

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