Airbnb Is Officially Illegal In New York

Senior Contributor
05.22.13 8 Comments

Airbnb is a service largely popular among tourists, as well as the occasional prostitute, looking for a place to crash in New York City (and many other places as well) who don’t want to pay exorbitant rates to stay at a hotel. Unfortunately, New York courts have decided it’s better for you to stay in a motel on Long Island than in a stranger’s home.

At issue is a state law passed two years ago aimed not at Airbnb, but rather at crummy landlords:

The New York case is centered around a 2011 law that makes it illegal for New York residents to rent out a property for less than 29 days. It was originally aimed at landlords who bought up residential properties and turned them into hotels. Airbnb has been lobbying legislators to change the law so it clearly protects hosts, like [defendant Nigel] Warren, who are not trying to turn their homes into hotels.

Airbnb wasn’t involved in the case, but they are lobbying to change the law. It’s not the first time the company has run into city code problems, either, some of which may or may not be ever so slightly exacerbated by angry hoteliers. It turns out temporarily renting out your apartment to total strangers is viewed as a safety risk, in some quarters!

Still, even if Airbnb runs into legal problems, it’s unlikely the concept is going to go away. New York City officials only learn about these things if your neighbors rat you out, and it seems unlikely the city is willing to forgo an estimated $1 billion in tourism income. So if Airbnb doesn’t get the law changed to its satisfaction, it’s likely going to wind up in court.

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