Evicting Tenants for Renting Out Rooms as a B&B
Q I have a rent-stabilized building, and some of my tenants are are renting out their bedrooms to tourists. In effect, they are running a bed-and-breakfast business. What actions can I take to make them stop? Can I evict them?
A These tenants are trying to capitalize on a loose definition of “roommate” to supplement their income. According to attorney Todd Nahins, you can evict them by initiating a holdover proceeding. Tenants cannot use their apartments as a bed-and-breakfast. Running a quasi-hotel business violates the terms of a residential lease and perpetuates a nuisance. There are also zoning issues.
Attorney Niles Welikson agrees, and cites a case in which the tenant rented a portion of a stabilized apartment to a series of guests or “roommates,” charging each nearly double the rent. The tenant's business card indicated the premises as a “Bed and Breakfast.” And the tenant advertised her unit on the Internet as “Chez Sylvie Bed and Breakfast.” The court ruled that her commercial exploitation of the apartment required eviction pursuant to the Rent Stabilization Code [West 148 LLC v. Yonke, April 2006].
Your biggest challenge to a successful holdover proceeding is probably gathering sufficient evidence to prove illegal use, says attorney William Neville. Due to the short stays, the tenant will be able to cure or remedy the violations unless the tenant is overcharging or profiteering. Fearing eviction, your tenants might take precautions to stay anonymous and instruct their guests to identify themselves to neighbors and you as “friends visiting from out of town.”
You should make every attempt to find out how much the tenant is charging; whether the tenant is advertising anywhere; and whether any of the guests are available and willing to testify about the arrangements. Attorney Steve Sidrane suggests setting up surveillance, and trying to find the advertising source. If that is found, he suggests getting someone to pose as a tourist to rent the room for a short period. This person can be a witness to the process and testify at the eviction proceeding.
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