City Sues Owners for Renting Out Stabilized Apartments on Airbnb
The city has named the owners of three Hell’s Kitchen buildings in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court for operating illegal short-term rentals in rent-stabilized apartments. Tenants of one building were left without gas or a roof for six months in 2015 due to a fire caused by illegal rental activity.
According to the suit, the apartments hosted over 700 guests and have earned $300,000 over three years. City inspectors found that at least 11 of the 50 apartments in the trio of five-story buildings should have been offered as rent-stabilized units but have been hosting illegal Airbnb rentals instead. At least nine of the Airbnb listings were discovered by the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE), which is charged with enforcing the city’s nuisance abatement law, which encompasses illegal hotel activity. The city argues that the number of rent-regulated units in the buildings has seen a significant drop since 2011. Court documents show that only five units out of 50 are still on the books as rent-stabilized according to DHCR records.
The city is seeking over $1 million in punitive damages. The lawsuit is one of many that the City Law Department has filed against owners as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fight against building owners who defy the state’s short-term rental law prohibiting them from subletting units for less than 30 days at a time.