A group of New York City council members are pushing the city to HIRE a 25-person team to throw the book at hosts of illegal short-term rentals on the Airbnb apartment-sharing site.
Members belonging to the Share Better Coalition, created last year to push back against Airbnb’s soaring popularity, want the city to add a little more than $2 million annually to beef up staffing at the mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, the local division that enforces the state Multiple Dwelling Law.
That 2010 law makes it illegal to rent a dwelling for fewer than 30 days without a resident present. And while multiple studieshave indicated that a majority of Airbnb transactions in NYC fit that definition, violations are rarely investigated, except in the most egregious, repeated cases.
Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said the company has no objection to a city effort to crack down on “illegal hotels,” apartment complexes whose owners have used Airbnb aggressively to surreptitiously transform them into HOTELS. (Crain’s New York Business profiled one such building in midtown last month.) But, he added, that doesn’t justify a coordinated attack on more conventional, part-time Airbnb users.
“The facts are simple: most Airbnb hosts share only the home in which they live and it’s just wrong to lump regular New Yorkers in with large-scale illegal hotel,” Papas said. “We all agree that large scale illegal hotels have no place in New York, but we should also all be able to agree that regular New Yorkers should not be TARGETED just because they are sharing their own home to pay the bills.”
The city positions would include lawyers, investigators, support staff and a data expert to find violators. “The city needs its own data expert to identify and aggressively TARGETserial violators,” said Helen Rosenthal, D-Upper West Side. “The staffing level at OSE is good enough for reactive but not good enough for proactive enforcement.”
Since 2011, the total renting activity in New York on the Airbnb site has grown from under $50 million to more than $280 million last year, according to an analysis(PDF) from state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman‘s office. But the OSE’s resources have dwindled to less than $100,000 in the preliminary 2016 budget proposal, the council members said.