Rent Your Apartment, Break the Law

Greg Beato wrote in Reason's October 2011 issue about the glories of renting what you own, including a mention of Airbnb. As Beato wrote:

 At Airbnb.com, which allows homeowners to rent space to travelers, a guy who lives across the street from a busy park in San Francisco is renting access to his bathroom for $10 a day.

Not sure what the toilet laws are, but as the local news site Metro.US reports, users of Airbnb in New York City are scofflaws:

This month, thousands of New Yorkers will hand over their apartment keys to strangers, making a few extra bucks by renting out their homes when they head out of town.

But they might not know they’re actually breaking a city law. A law that went into effect this past May bans renting out apartments for fewer than 30 days.

The law was created to target residential buildings illegally converted into makeshift hotels, but still applies to those who rent out their room for a night or two on popular sites like Airbnb.com.

Enforcement is based on complaints, so the city can issue violations and fines — but only after a neighbor calls 311 and complains, said city spokesman Marc LaVorgna.

And New Yorkers who rent out their rooms on Airbnb have indeed been fined, said LaVorgna. One Clinton Hill youth hostel, Loftstel, which advertised on Airbnb, was slapped with a full vacate order in May, he said.

Fines for illegally renting out rooms can range from $800 to $2,500, but it's not the renter who pays, it's the landlord.

There may indeed be markets in everything, but there are also market-disrupting and unhelpful regulations in everything.

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  • KDN||

    Enforcement is based on complaints, so the city can issue violations and fines — but only after a neighbor calls 311 and complains, said city spokesman Marc LaVorgna.

    And New Yorkers who rent out their rooms on Airbnb have indeed been fined, said LaVorgna. One Clinton Hill youth hostel, Loftstel, which advertised on Airbnb, was slapped with a full vacate order in May, he said.

    New Yorkers are such miserable people. God, I hate this place.

  • ||

    Using one's personal property as one sees fit is illegal in NYC? Color me unsurprised.

    Why anybody would live in that progressive shithole is beyond me. We should just wall it off in the middle of the night and let them eat each other.

  • Brett L||

    But then what do we do when the President's plane goes down over it?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Someone get me Herb Brooks!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Hold a speech.

  • Brendan||

    There are uh some who say we should umm hold a speech and yet there are other who umm believe we should er celebrate.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Let me be clear: I agree with some of these people.

  • ||

    Let me be clear, uhhh, what Brenden said.

  • ||

    But then what do we do when the President's plane goes down over it?

    Not sure what you'll do. I'll open a bottle of Cristal.

  • Norman the Mormon||

    Cristal? Like the champagne?

  • tarran||

    Celebrate with an order of chicken korma?

  • ||

    The president of what?

  • Gojira||

    Why anybody would live in that progressive shithole is beyond me.

    Sayeth the proud California resident.

    ; )

  • ||

    Why not just kick me in the balls, Jim.

    But seriously, I live in the central valley. It's a bit of an oasis in the shit ocean that is California. Hell, my county issued CCW permits to 95% of the applicants last year.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Permits? What are these permits?

  • ||

    Sayeth the proud California resident.

    FIFY.

  • Gojira||

    I stand humbly corrected good sir.

  • Esteban||

    Is it a problem if you're renting the apartment already and then don't get approval from the landlord to sublet or rent out your room. This is probably more an issue for the landlord to deal with and not the city.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    No, it's a problem of hotels not wanting competition.

  • ||

    Spot on. Hotels don't like the competition and are using the hotel/motel taxes as justification. San Francisco has also said services like AirBnB are illegal.

  • Ska||

    Most people wouldn't actually call the city and bust you for it. Most people would ignore the law, just like everywhere else.

    Yeah it's full of progressives, and you can ignore them easily enough too. There are a lot of great things in NYC.

  • ||

    Hell yeah, there are. NYC has the potential to be the greatest city in the world. It's just that everything is illegal there, whether or not the laws are enforced with any consistency.

    A cop in NYC has the ability to arrest almost anybody they want at any time. And 99% of the time, the person being arrested won't even know they are breaking a law. That's why NYC sucks donkey balls.

  • The name's...||

    ...Plissken

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Urine big trouble.

  • ||

    " A law that went into effect this past May bans renting out apartments for fewer than 30 days."

    So Holiday Inn Express is breaking the law?

  • ChrisO||

    I'm sure there are statutory definitions of "hotel" and "apartment" in the ordinance that address long-term hotel stays and other such officially sanctioned hybrids.

    It's just a method of squeezing licensing fees out of owners of hostels and BnBs. Local governments all resemble the Mafia, just with less flashy suits.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I imagine the law has more to do with taxes than anything else. Short term rentals would normally fall under hotel tax provisions and I'll bet that the hotel taxes are steep in NYC.

    I'm not attempting to justify it in the least, but I can see where a hotel owner would complain loudly that they have to collect taxes whereas the black market does not.

  • ||

    But they aren't asking the owners to pay the hotel tax, which would be a simple-enough request, they are simply outlawing the rental outright.

  • ChrisO||

    I'm guessing there is a licensing provision by which your "apartment" can become a "hotel."

    The hitch here is probably that only the property owner can officially make the place a "hotel."

    Also I'll bet that many tenants are doing this in violation of their leases and don't want their landlord to know about it. Most apartment leases forbid subletting without the owner's permission.

    I'm not saying that I think the city was right to pass this ordinance, but I doubt many property owners in NYC are going to get that upset about it.

  • ||

    Probably because for every 1 they catch there are 20 who don't get caught. So simply collecting the tax wouldn't serve as a deterrent.

  • ||

    I lived in Augusta, GA for two years before moving out to California. I can assure you if they had tried to pass a law like this there, people would burn City Hall to the ground. Masters week is usually worth around $5k for a decent home and $2k for a 2BR apartment.

  • ||

    This was my assumption too.

  • Almanian||

    Fuck NYC. Jesus Christ, what a miserable place.

    I think I'm heading further west - Wyoming maybe. Seems like that region's the "most free" anymore - can live out my last years there, and hopefully die of natural causes before we're utterly overrun by statist fuck nanny scolds.

    But not so far west as Cali - that's Western New York, of course, so right out. Wyoming, Montana, maybe Idaho...

    Again I say, fuck!

  • ||

    Why are you not in the Bowl Pick-em? I'm gonna give you shit when the Hokies beat scUM anyway.* You may as well just face your medicine there as well.

    *Neither team deserved a BCS berth. And they are way off their projected ticket sales for the game. Fortunately, the Gator Bowl has exceeded ticket sales expectations, so the state's economy will be safe from Michigomers fucking it up.

  • Brett L||

    Unfortunately, we still have to put up with Notre Lame fans. FSU-ND is going to be terrible.

  • Spartacus||

    I agree with you about neither team deserving a BCS bowl, but I'm not so sure that the Hokies will win.

    Remember, you can't spell "overrated" without VT.

  • ||

    Friends! Reasoners! Fellow Homo Sapiens! Lend me your tears!

    I've done it! I've solved the Somalia problem!

    My fellow libertarians, we've been so stupid!

    Everything would be OK if only they would institute some sensible regulations & a progressive tax code!

  • ||

    Everything would be OK if only they would institute some sensible regulations & a progressive tax code!

    You forgot Top Men.

  • ||

    There was actually an old episode of Good Times with this actual sub-plot.The Evans family were constantly having to hide their lodger from the the nosy super.

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