As a certain political candidate once put it so very accurately, “the rent is too damn high.” New York City dwellers know this all too well, which is why services like Airbnb can be a boon to anyone who doesn’t want to waste rent money on an empty apartment or bedroom should they be out of town. But one man who rented out part of his apartment to an Airbnb customer now has to pay $2,400 to NYC, all because of a city law intended to discourage illegal hotels.
The city had at first ordered the man to pay $7,000 total in fees, notes CNET, but after Airbnb stepped in an administrative judge ordered him to just fork over the $2,400. According to a 2011 law, it’s illegal in NYC to rent out a home for fewer than 29 days. That law is supposed to ensure that property owners don’t gobble up residential properties and then turn them into hotels.
It’s the city’s view that the apartment “may only be used as private residences and may not be rented for transient, hotel, or motel purposes.” But what about the flourishing business Airbnb does in NYC? It seems right now that the city only enforces the law when someone complains — and in this case it’s unclear who may have done that, although it’s worth pointing out that the guy had a roommate who was at home during the time he rented out his room.
To that end, however, Airbnb has been pushing legislators to tweak the law so that people can simply rent their homes out temporarily and aren’t trying to actually run a hotel.
As such, Airbnb issued a statement saying it’s bummed about the administrative judge’s decision to fine the man for renting his room:
This decision runs contrary to the stated intention and the plain text of New York law, so obviously we are disappointed. But more importantly, this decision makes it even more critical that New York law be clarified to make sure regular New Yorkers can occasionally rent out their own homes. There is universal agreement that occasional hosts like [the man] were not the target of the 2010 law, but that agreement provides little comfort to the handful of people, like [redacted], who find themselves targeted by overzealous enforcement officials. It is time to fix this law and protect hosts who occasionally rent out their own homes. Eighty-seven percent of Airbnb hosts in New York list just a home they live in — they are average New Yorkers trying to make ends meet, not illegal hotels that should be subject to the 2010 law.
If Airbnb can’t change the law, it could lose a big chunk of NYC business over concerned apartment owners or renters who don’t want to end up being fined for renting their place out for a couple of days here and there.