Saturday, November 5, 2011
Illegal hotels still advertising openly
The website Airbnb, connects visitors looking to rent a spare apartment, bedroom or even a bunk from a local host who may or may not be present. And in New York, where real estate is king, the site could be a real game-changer, where it’s raising legal questions in many apartment buildings and also offering a challenge to the big-money hotel industry.
Driving Airbnb's popularity are skyrocketing hotel rates combined with a bevy of New Yorkers seeking innovative ways to defray ever escalating expenses.
There are, of course, risks for both parties in the wild west of self-arranged home rental: This summer, two California Airbnb hosts made news when they complained that paying guests wound up vandalizing and burglarizing their homes. And, as with hotel bookings made remotely, travelers may occasionally find that expectation and reality fail to align.
It also turns out that many of the 7,000 local offerings on the rapturously popular site, lauded by both tourists and hosts alike, are technically illegal.
A state law passed last year – intended to stop illegal hotels from usurping much-needed housing stock, but incidentally supported by the Hotel Association of New York City - made it illegal to rent out units in most multiple dwelling units for less than 30 days.
The exact boundaries of the broadly written law are blurry and whether it is being or will be enforced is a mystery. The City’s Department of Buildings referred inquiries to the Mayor’s Office for Special Enforcement, which did not respond to requests for comment.