Airbnb, the short term rental site that lets people rent out their apartments and homes, has become quite controversial in New York City?mainly because all of these short term rentals are illegal. Despite that, the service is booming. Crain's reports that the rentals from the website could generate $1 billion in economic activity this year. In recent months, Airbnb and similar services have started spreading the word that they want to change the New York State law so they aren't, you know, breaking the law anymore, and they aren't messing around. Airbnb has hired some big time Albany lobbyists, and they hope to get the laws changed before the legislative session ends on June 21, just in time for all those summer vacationers.
Lobbyist Emily Giske, a friend of City Council Speaker and mayoral-wannabe Christine Quinn, is leading the charge. Crain's repeatedly says that Airbnb wants a "simple tweak" to the existing legislation, but the article does not detail what exactly that tweak is. Currently, the law states that any rental less and 30 days is illegal, and it was meant to combat illegal hotelling by landlords, not illegal sublets. Quinn herself even acknowledges that the current system probably isn't the best system: "We need to balance creative ideas like Airbnb with the fact that illegal hotels are harmful to the fabric of New York City, and that is what we're working toward."
Airbnb wants a small change to the current law, but State Senator Martin Golden has bigger plans. His bill proposes creating a registration system in which apartment dwellers could pay the DOB $200 per apartment to register as a short term rental. Rent-regulated units and SROs would not be allowed, and all participants would have to pay hotel taxes. No person could have more than 30 registered apartments, and smoke detectors and evacuation diagrams would be required. There would also be some type of exemption for people who provide tax revenue and tourist dollars to the city. However, this change is much more ambitious and no one seems to be confident that it will pass.
The small tweak may not even happen?the original bill's creator does not support changing the law and neither does the Hotel Association of New York.
· Airbnb: hugely popular, still illegal [Crain's]
· Airbnb coverage [Curbed]
· Short Term Rentals coverage [Curbed]