Airbnb has come out swinging against a bill that would hit homeowners who rent out their pads on home-sharing sites with fines as high as $50,000, saying it’s “bad policy” that could bankrupt New Yorkers looking to make a quick buck.
The company sent a three-page letter to City Councilman Jumaane Williams on Wednesday, a week before the Brooklyn Democrat, who chairs the Housing and Buildings Committee, holds a hearing on the bill.
“A fine of this size being imposed on middle-class families would lead to bankruptcies,” the letter from Christopher Lehane, Airbnb global head of public policy, states.
The $50,000 fine for repeat offenders is larger than fines for other serious infractions — including the $500-a-day penalty for not providing a tenant heat, the $10,000 maximum fine for lead-paint exposure and the $2,000 that landlords pay for rat violations.
The bill appears to be “promoted for only one reason: to scare middle-class people out of their homes,” said Lehane.
He called it the “Freddy Krueger of bills” and said holding the hearing around Halloween was particularly appropriate.
But Williams said it’s Lehane who is trying to frighten people.
He conceded that the $50,000 maximum fine might be a little steep, but said that it wouldn’t be levied against the occasional Airbnb user. “This isn’t about people going on vacation,” he said. “Any time someone gets caught (illegally renting out their apartment), it’s because they are doing it repeatedly.”
Both Williams and City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who is the prime sponsor of the bill, said it’s targeted at greedy landlords who illegally rent out regulated apartments, which exacerbates the city’s housing crisis.