Clandestine Airbnb rentals are doomed, thanks to the rollout of new legislation that more strictly governs stays under 30 days, local elected officials. On Monday, Jan. 9, Local Law 18 was slated to take effect — though a period for public comment extended through Jan. 11 when New Yorkers mostly banded together against the proposed changes in an hours-long virtual hearing held by the mayor’s office.
“There is nothing more American than a small business Airbnb host,” a speaker named Yiselle said, noting that people who operate short-term rentals often work multiple jobs and support their families with the added income.
While it remains illegal for people to rent out the pads they own or lease for less than 30 days in buildings with a minimum of three apartments, if they don’t also live on the premises during that time, Local Law 18 establishes an added requirement. Those eligible to host short-term rentals must register with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) — after which platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo will step in to verify the rental before listing it online.
Support, With Caveats
On Wednesday, Council Member Erik Bottcher voiced his support for the new law, citing “significant levels of short-term rental activity” in his district, which spans from the West Village to Hell’s Kitchen. He expressed fear of landlords who, if unregulated, might “transfer whole buildings into short-term rentals.”
Upper West Side Council Member Gale Brewer has also come out in support of Local Law 18. In written testimony from December, she noted instances in which Airbnb rentals in rent-stabilized apartment buildings wreaked havoc on neighbors.
Unlike hotels, “apartment buildings are not equipped to keep tourists safe,” she wrote, referencing features like sprinklers and exit signs. (In at least one extreme case, not linked with Airbnb or any other rental platform, there’s been physical violence: on Tuesday, Jan. 10, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sentenced Geoffrey Tracy to eight years in state prison after he was found guilty of assault, for repeatedly stabbing his short-term host in the summer of 2018).
Boards for condos and co-ops, Brewer testified, are also in favor of Local Law 18. But the Council member has heard pleas from New Yorkers who rent out their apartments, ranging from requests for exemptions based on the complaint that the new process is “onerous” to concerns about privacy.
“Hosts in small, owner-occupied buildings worry about having their names and addresses with financial information on a public site,” she wrote.
Impacting A Livelihood
On Wednesday, speaker after speaker — many New York City homeowners — voiced their discontent with Local Law 18, in its current state. Some testified that they wouldn’t be opposed to regulation of landlords with a large number of properties, but that individuals with lesser reach should be exempt.
“These rules are rules that are coming down on those of us that are actually good actors, good citizens,” said Eric Smith, who has been a short-term rental host for roughly 12 years. Dave S., another speaker, called for “a more nuanced solution.”
Kathleen Ruoti, an Airbnb “super host,” said that overseeing short-term rentals “pays the bills” — a sentiment echoed also by Luis Mora, who said that income from Airbnb has allowed him to send his children to college. Local Law 18 threatens to end an era of renting that boasted more freedom.
“I hope New York City doesn’t put me out of business,” Ruoti lamented.
“These rules are rules that are coming down on those of us that are actually good actors, good citizens.” Eric Smith