Oliver Smith, The Daily Telegraph, May 22, 2013
New Yorkers hoping to rent their apartments to visiting tourists may face hefty fines after a judge effectively ruled the popular rental website Airbnb illegal.
CNET, a technology news website, reported that Nigel Warren, a New York resident, had been fined $2,400 for violating the city’s hotel laws, after he rented out part of his apartment to a woman for three days in September.
A 2010 law – originally introduced to prevent landlords from purchased numerous apartments and turning them into de facto hotels – forbids property owners from renting out their homes for less than 30 days. Administrative Law Judge Clive Morrick ruled that Mr Warren had violated the law, despite Airbnb stepping in to defend his case.
The city said the apartment “may only be used as a private residence and may not be rented for transient, hotel, or motel purposes”, and issued the reduced fine of $2,400. He had orginally been told to pay $7,000.
It has been suggested that the law will only be enforced in the event of a complaint, but Airbnb urged authorities for clarification over the issue.
“This decision runs contrary to the stated intention and the plain text of New York law, so obviously we are disappointed,” it said in a statement. “But more importantly, this decision makes it even more critical that New York law be clarified to make sure regular New Yorkers can occasionally rent out their own homes.
“There is universal agreement that occasional hosts like Nigel Warren were not the target of the 2010 law, but that agreement provides little comfort to the handful of people, like Nigel, who find themselves targeted by overzealous enforcement officials. It is time to fix this law and protect hosts who occasionally rent out their own homes.
“Eighty-seven percent of Airbnb hosts in New York list just a home they live in — they are average New Yorkers trying to make ends meet, not illegal hotels that should be subject to the 2010 law.”