No vacancies: REBNY backs anti-Airbnb bill in Albany

Real estate trade group upset that building owners are fined for illegal stays
June 24, 2016 09:00AM

From left: John Banks, Airbnb's Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk

From left: John Banks, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk

Game on: A fight between the powerful Real Estate Board of New York and short-term rentals giant Airbnb erupted in Albany last week, as lawmakers passed a bill taking aim at tenants who list short-term rentals.

Current law fines building owners – not renters – if tenants illegally rent out their apartments for fewer than 30 days, Crain’s reported. As building owners try to fight back against what they see as a scourge of Airbnb, REBNY backed the bill, which now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval.

In recent years, landlords have tried to counter Airbnb’s pervasiveness by hiring private investigators to root out short-term stays, as well as adding language to leases to try to prevent renters from listing their apartments for short-term stays.

Last week, the politically-connected real estate trade group partnered with other Airbnb opponents including housing advocates who say short-term rentals worsen the city’s affordable housing crisis. Union hotel workers say their employers are losing business to Airbnb.

REBNY executive vice president Jim Whelan said negotiations with Airbnb have gone nowhere to date.

“They’re very nice people, they sit there, they listen to you, they nod and then nothing happens,” he said.

But Airbnb spokesperson Peter Schottenfels said instead of rushing into a “bad piece of legislation,” the company hopes “the industry would continue to work with us to find a solution that benefits them and helps their tenants pay their bills.” [Crain’s] – E.B. Solomont