Airbnb Becoming More Illegal, And Therefore More Fun

By Emily Roche


Airbnb made local news again last week when a judge upheld a landlord’s decision to evict a tenant who was caught leasing out his apartment to tourists. Henri Ikezi, 35, was found to have rented out his swanky two-bedroom Hell’s Kitchen penthouse to various individuals for around $630 a night, or more than twice what he was paying his landlord to live there.

The core of the case lies in the fact that his apartment was rent-controlled, which means that there are certain city-dictated limits as to how much the landlord can raise the cost of rent. Although the market price for Ikezi’s 42nd street penthouse was over $9000 a month, the rules of rent control allowed him to pay only two-thirds of that.

In response to the case, Justice Jack Stoller stated that the tenant’s leasing scheme was worthy of eviction because “using a residential apartment as a hotel room and profiteering off of it…undermines a purpose of the Rent Stabilization Code,” The New York Post reports.

This incident is just one in a series of confrontations between Airbnb leasers in New York and city officials, who have been fighting to put the kibosh on the do-it-yourself hotel service that Airbnb offers.

Recent “scraped” data has shown that more than 58% of all Airbnb listings in New York are for an entire apartment or house, which could possibly imply an illicit sublet, qualifying all of those listings as illegal by city regulations. Short-term rental laws in New York City stipulate that the tenant who seeks to rent their room out on Airbnb must be living in the space while it is being sublet to another party. Otherwise, they are liable to face eviction.

In order to hold back the flood of backdoor Airbnb deals, the city has founded a special squad of officers to “inspect” (re: break in to) apartments listed on Airbnb to ensure that all regulations are being followed. But is this really an effective way to solve the problem?

There are currently over 20,000 listings for NYC on the website, and data indicates that the site will only be growing faster as rapidly increasing property costs drive up the price of hotel rooms. Think of Airbnb as the Uber of temporary living: you’re not sure exactly whose car (apartment) you’re getting into, but it’s cheaper than the way it’s always been done in the past, and the fact that these startup services are unpopular with regulators only increases their appeal.

We all remember that time you charged your roommate’s cousin fifty bucks to sleep in your bed at Founders during winter break freshman year, so don’t act like you’re too good for Airbnb just because it’s sliding over to the wrong side of the law. Considering the true gems that are lying in wait on Airbnb, it’s worth taking a look at, even if just to gape at the more interesting flavors of some of the listings in our fair city.

If you’re looking for a staycation on a budget, for example, a basic lodging from Airbnb might just be for you. At $12 a night, this “bare necessities stopover room” in Forest Hills seems like a pretty chill place to stay, despite the room being described as “not ready.” If being a day late and a dollar short is more your speed, feel free to check out this luxury “apartment for Super Bowl” in Hoboken for a scant $3000 a night. Granted that the New Jersey Super Bowl was over a year ago, this listing is only for a single bed, and that this apartment isn’t even in New York, but hey, come on, how often do you get to indulge in divine luxuries such as “kitchen” and “elevator” for the low, low cost of only $21,000 a week (NJ Transit fare not included)? If the true flavor of New York City is what you’re after, then you might be interested in a shared room. Consider the elegant “comfy sofa available in the Bronx” (although this listing has some pretty positive reviews, and would probably be a lot more fun than the Super Bowl place). Then, of course, there’s this place.

Or you could, you know, try CouchSurfing for free.

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