Small homeowners are facing hefty fines for short-term rentals

The crackdown has swept up one- and two-family homes
April 05, 2019 04:15PM

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Credit: Getty Images)

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Credit: Getty Images)

Small homeowners swept up in the city’s aggressive enforcement of short-term rentals, like Airbnb, are getting hit with steep fines.

Owners of one- and two-family homes in Brooklyn have been issued more than $2.1 million in fines under the de Blasio administration, The City reported. That’s 27 percent of the total $7.8 million in fines issued in the borough during that period.

Homeowners in Queens paid a larger share: $1.7 million in penalties made up 39 percent of the borough’s total $4.3 million. In Manhattan, where one- and two-family homes are harder to come by, they made up less than 1 percent of the $16.2 million in fines issued for illegal rentals since 2014.

Dian Killian is among the homeowners who’ve been penalized. She told The City she had researched the legality of renting out her unit in Bedford-Stuyvesant. State laws prohibiting rentals of less than 30 days do not apply to one- and two-family homes.

Still, she was approached by inspectors and hit with four buildings violations by the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. Killian eventually paid more than $5,000 in fines — which she said amounted to about three months of rentals.

Newly elected Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said the proportion of fines hitting small homeowners contradicts what the administration has said about enforcement targeting the more egregious offenders. In July 2018, Council Speaker Corey Johnson said city inspectors “are really trying to go after the really bad actors that have entire buildings or multiple apartments in a building.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio previously told NY1 that “my problem is when a building is turned into a de facto hotel. My problem is when an apartment is rented out effectively year round.”

Both officials have sought tighter regulation.

“We were clear our intent is not to go after one- and two-family homeowners,” Williams told The City. “We thought we had a partnership with the city. But the administration looks like they’ve opened up a can of wild, wild west whoop-ass on them.”

City officials say their enforcement is complaint-driven, and that there are cases where one- and two-family homes had been turned into de facto boarding houses or where Airbnb had struggled to self-police violations of the rules. [The City] — Meenal Vamburkar