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When Is a Home Rental Legal in New York City? Ask Arthur Frommer, a Former Lawyer | Frommer's  

When Is a Home Rental Legal in New York City? Ask Arthur Frommer, a Former Lawyer

There is perhaps nowhere in America that more needs the services of Airbnb than New York City.  Its hotels are frequently sold out, and even when available are sky-high in price.

So low-cost Airbnb is best for your next New York stay, right? 

Not so fast.  

Fearing the impact of Airbnb upon the housing needs of permanent residents, both the city and state of New York have passed rules greatly limiting the use of that kind of accommodation.

That use is permitted only if Airbnb users occupy a room in a multiple room apartment or home whose owner remains in residence throughout the stay.

In other words, you are able to use Airbnb only for a room, and not for an entire apartment or home. The owner must remain “down the hall” at all times.

In the early days of Airbnb, hardly anyone paid attention to that requirement. Then Airbnb grew so big as to reduce the city’s housing stock for permanent residents.  

So the city’s council and the state’s legislature passed strong rules limiting the activity of Airbnb to the requirement that an apartment’s owner had to remain in residence for an Airbnb rental to be allowed.

And now, prosecutors for both the city and the state are enforcing the new legislation with a vengeance. Last month, the legal arm of the New York City Council launched a massive lawsuit against several organizations that prosecutors claim used falsehoods and fraud to convert illegal Airbnb rentals into seemingly proper ones.  

They have accused the alleged perpetrators of using fake names and addresses to make it appear that Airbnb rentals for tens of thousands of tourists were supposedly sporadic in nature, rather than continuous rentals of apartments in which tourists lived alone without an owner nearby.  

They have claimed that entire large buildings were converted into illegal hotels in which tourists were able to enjoy whole apartments in the manner that hotels do.

Those prosecutors are asking for fines of millions of dollars, and they have obviously frightened those who have, until now, paid no attention to the legal provision that owners must remain in their residences throughout the rental, in order for the transaction to occur.  

Such a regulation obviously greatly limits the people who would otherwise use Airbnb.

Do these legal efforts prevent you from using Airbnb for your own next trip to New York City? The answer is clearly no, provided only that you ascertain that an apartment’s owner shares the lodging with you.  

If you ascertain that you are the only occupant of an Airbnb lodging, officials may legally burst into the apartment and forcibly evict you.

No longer is this a fanciful prediction. Powerful organizations of hotels and others are determined to reduce the incursion of Airbnb into their business. 

If you have the slightest doubt that your Airbnb rental is improper, it’s best to walk out.