Airbnb violators could face hefty fines
Rentals under 30 days barred if resident not present at time
New York state on Friday enacted one of the nation’s toughest restrictions on shortterm rentals offered through online services like Airbnb.
The measure, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, authorizes fines of up to $7,500 for listings that violate a 2010 state law forbidding rentals of less than 30 days when the owner or tenant is not present.
Supporters of the measure say many property owners use sites like Airbnb to offer residential apartments as short-term rentals to visitors, hurting existing hotels while taking residential units off the already expensive housing market in New York City.
The new law won’t apply to rentals in single-family homes, row houses or apartment spare rooms if the resident is present.
“Today is a great day for tenants, seniors, and anyone who values the safe and quiet enjoyment of their homes and neighborhoods,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, a cosponsor of the bill. “For too long, companies like Airbnb have encouraged illegal activity that takes housing off the market and makes our affordability crisis worse.”
Airbnb said it would immediately file a lawsuit challenging the law.
“In typical fashion, Albany backroom dealing rewarded a special interest — the price-gouging hotel industry — and ignored the voices of tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” said Josh Meltzer, Airbnb’s head of public policy in New York.
The complicated rules mean many New Yorkers may not know whether they can legally rent out their homes — and Airbnb says it does not have the ability to remove listings that violate the 2010 law.
Supporters say the imposition of fines will likely be driven by complaints from neighbors.
In the Ulster County town of Shandaken, there have been numerous complaints about shortterm rental customers disturbing neighbors.
Also locally, Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach has been pushing for the county to start levying its bed tax on rentals booked through Airbnb and similar sites, saying the moved could generate $200,000 in revenue in the upcoming year. Auerbach, though, has been unsuccessful so far in getting the proposal through the county Legislature.
Airbnb mounted a last-minute campaign to kill the state measure and this week proposed alternative regulations that the company argued would address concerns about short-term rentals without onerous
Most people who list a rental on Airbnb are looking to make a little money while they’re out of town, according to Chris Lehane, head of global policy for San Francisco-based Airbnb. The company says the 46,000 Airbnb hosts in New York City alone have generated more than $2 billion in economic activity.
As of August, there were another 13,000 Airbnb listings elsewhere in the state.
“It’s baffling to us in this time of economic inequality that folks would be looking to impose fines of as much as $7,500 on a middle-class person looking to use the home that they live in to help make ends meet,” Lehane said before the bill was signed.
A spokesman for Cuomo said the governor gave
the bill careful consideration.
“Ultimately, these activities are already expressly prohibited by law,” Rich Azzopardi said.
An investigation of Airbnb rentals from 2010 to 2014 by the office of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found that 72 percent of the units in New York City were illegal, with commercial operators constituting 6 percent of the hosts and supplying 36 percent of the rentals.
Schneiderman vowed to fight any legal challenge to the new law.
“The law signed today will provide vital protections for New York tenants and help prevent the continued proliferation of illegal, unregulated hotels, and we will defend it,” he said in a statement.