Airbnb host scores legal victory with “roommate defense”

October 03, 2013 03:25PM

A recent Airbnb host fined $2,400 scored a favorable decision from the New York City Environmental Control Board after arguing his roommate was present during the tourists’ stay.

The short-term rental site, while not named in the case, joined host Nigel Warren on appeal and paid for his defense. Airbnb touted the ruling as a victory for “the sharing community” in New York, but legal experts say much gray area remains.

“This doesn’t represent most of the rentals that Airbnb or any of the other occupancy facilitators engage in,” said Sherwin Belkin of Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman.

The typical situation Belkin and other lawyers see, as they told Law360, is one in which a primary occupant takes out an Airbnb ad offering an entire apartment for a short-term rental, during which he or she is not present.

Such cases are unaffected by the decision.

The challenge, as The Real Deal previously reported, is that the onus for proving whether tenants are present during such a rental falls on the condominium and co-op boards suing them. Even the “roommate defense” falls on somewhat shaky ground, as the question of a paid guest violates a slew of other laws and regulations. [Law360]Julie Strickland