Court Orders Rent-Controlled Tenant to Stop ‘Profiteering’ Through AirBnb

A Manhattan judge recently ordered an Upper West Side rent-controlled tenant to stop renting out her apartment on Airbnb. Records show that the tenant, a mostly unemployed 62-year-old, was taking in around $78,000 per year renting out bedrooms in her four-bedroom apartment, while paying $53,724 in her own rent.

The tenant advertised her apartment on AirBnb as a "Lovely Small Bedroom in Huge Apartment" (for $75 per night/$450 per week); a "Sunny Bedroom, Central Park View" ($100 per night/$600 per week), and "Gorgeous Master Bed/Bath on the Park" ($150 per night/$1,000 per week). According to the court records, she rented no bedrooms for fewer than three days at a time and none for more than 21 days consecutively.

"In essence, defendant's own records indicate that she has been profiteering from a rent-controlled apartment partially subsidized by another government program, SCRIE," the judge wrote. The tenant provided amenities including fresh linens and towels, complimentary soap, shampoo, a hair dryer, an iron, and Wi-Fi. Similar to a hotel operator, the tenant gave renters a confirmation number and charged a penalty if they cancelled their reservation. "None of these characteristics are attendant with the typical 'roommate' living agreement or arrangement" that would not be subject to Rent Control Law oversight, the judge noted.

The owner’s motion included statements from the tenant’s neighbors, who complained of a transient element being introduced into the building—the doorman was under the rent-controlled tenant’s orders to let Airbnb renters in and give them free access to the building, according to the decision.