The Airbnb Crackdown The Latest Efforts to Regulate Homesharing in Co-ops and Condos

On January 22, Airbnb listed New York City as the third-most travelled to city for business trips on its new “Airbnb for Business” platform. The announcement comes a month after the company released data showing that 55 percent of Airbnb users in New York City are renting out their entire apartments while they are not at home—which is illegal under New York State law.

“The exposure is there,” said Alexander Kanen, a managing and real estate partner at Manhattan-based Kanen Law Firm. “There are two considerations at play: state law and building consideration. Many buildings have rules specifically prohibiting certain leases and subletting.”

The concerning part of all this is that when the fines are levied against users who are caught illegally renting their apartments out the landlords and co-op boards of the buildings they are in can also be fined. “When it comes to that Airbnb is a real danger,” said Kanen.

According to a spokesman for the Department of Buildings, the law states that apartments, co-ops, and condos cannot be rented out for shorter than 30 days at a time unless the primary resident is also home for the duration of the rental.  In a 2014 Q&A with New York State Senator Liz Krueger, the ranking Democrat on the legislature’s Finance Committee, the senator said that most co-op and condo bylaws do not allow tenants to rent out their apartments without first getting permission from the building’s board.  

“Each building, be it a co-op or condo, has their own restrictions. Most of them limit the owner’s—or tenant’s, in the case of a co-op—ability to sublet to a minimum of one year. A lot of sponsored projects won’t get an abatement from the [New York State] attorney general unless they specifically state that there will be no leases for at least one year in the building,” said Kanen.

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