Letter: Air BnB Still Flouting Laws

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:06

A reader argues that the apartment-sharing service is still operating illegally even if it complies with tax law, in response to our story "Air BnB-ware," by Daniel Fitzsimmons, May 15, 2014

By Tom Cayler, West Side Neighborhood Alliance

Upper West Side Airbnb suddenly wants to pay its taxes. It makes out that that is only the thing it is doing which makes its business model illegal in NYC. Mr. Fitzsimmons is right that NYC residential leases restrict subletting. Condos and coops even more so.

So there's the NYS Multiple Dwelling Law that requires Class A apartments to be rented for thirty days or more. NYC zoning laws restrict hotel use to Commercial zones. The FDNY fire code requires a higher level of fire safety for transient accommodations. Besides the hotel tax, which Airbnb is now willing to pay, there is state and city sales tax.

And the 800 pound gorilla that Airbnb does not mention at all is the insurance problem. Landlords and tenants who "share" their apartments with transients are not covered for fire, flood, or liability insurance. There are no policies that cover transient use in a residential building. Residential insurance and hotel insurance are two different dogs.

With these facts in mind, what is it that Airbnb and its "host" are doing, by renting full apartments in NYC, that is legal?