December 21, 2015
ALBANY – In a bid to crack down on Airbnb, state legislators are preparing a bill that would prohibit hosts from advertising illegal units, the Daily News has learned.
Under the bill, anyone advertising apartments in violation of a 2010 hotel state law that bars the renting out of units for less than 30 days could face fines.
If passed, New York would become the first state to enact such a law.
Assembly bill sponsor Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) said the bill makes sense since the main way an apartment can be illegally rented is by advertising it on home-sharing sites like Airbnb or in newspapers, magazines, TV, flyers and direct mail.
Cutting the ads should drive down the illegal short-term rentals since it will be tougher for people to find out about them, she said.
Landlords, under the bill, would also be required to notify tenants in their leases that renting certain units for short-term rentals may violate lease agreements, is illegal, and could result in eviction.
“What this bill is targeting is people or companies with multiple listings,” Rosenthal (D-Manhattan). “There are so many units held by commercial operators, not individual tenants. They are bad actors who horde multiple units, driving up the cost of housing around them and across the city.”
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has said that 72% of Airbnb rentals in New York City are illegal. The company has said it is far less.
If passed, violators could face fines of up to $7,500 per violation, which can add up for commercial operators that make hundreds of units available, Rosenthal said.
State Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican, is expected to carry the bill in the Senate.
The legislation has the potential to unify groups that don’t normally work together-developers, housing advocates and unions.
Jamie McShane, a spokesman for the Real Estate Board of New York, hadn’t seen it, but said that “it sounds like it has a lot of merit and would be something we can support.”
“Why would anyone be allowed to advertise illegal activities?” he asked.
Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel Trades Council, said the legislation would “give enforcement agencies a strong tool to stop the spread of illegal hotels that are driving rents up and forcing middle class New Yorkers out of the city.”
An Airbnb spokesman said the online business hasn’t seen the proposal, but said it could hurt New Yorkers who use the home-sharing site to raise money to help them meet their high rents.
“We should be working on some common-sense changes that help middle class families who share the home in which they live and depend on Airbnb to pay the bills,” he said.
He said Airbnb is prepared to work with the Legislature on a “common sense” solution that “that weeds out illegal hotels while supporting the middle class.”