De Blasio Administration Files First Airbnb-Related Lawsuit Against Illegal Hotel Operator
The de Blasio administration recently filed its first lawsuit against apartments operating as illegal hotels. The city has been granted a preliminary injunction against the owners of two residential buildings in Manhattan, where investigators claim units were rented out by the night on apartment-sharing websites like Airbnb.com and were violating fire and building code violations.
Until now, Mayor de Blasio has not taken a strong stand on the controversy surrounding Airbnb.com. “It’s something that I think, in general, government is grappling with as a new phenomenon,” he said in April. But amid pressure from elected officials and the Hotel Trades Council, the administration has quietly ramped up efforts to crack down on rentals that violate the law. Between January and August, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement inspected 617 apartments after receiving complaints about short-term stays — compared with 434 during the same time period in 2013.
More than 70 percent of the listings on Airbnb are illegal, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently stated in a report. According to the report, commercial operators manage more than a third of the units and account for more than a third of the revenue, according to the New York Times. The report found that 6 percent of the hosts made 37 percent of the revenue.
Most of the rentals are located in three Manhattan neighborhoods — Lower East Side/Chinatown, Chelsea/Hell’s Kitchen, and Greenwich Village/SoHo — while the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island account for only 3 percent, or $12 million. The report also found that a dozen buildings had more than half of their units used as rentals for at least half the year.