Related Companies is the latest landlord to say it has fallen victim to a short-term rental hustler who calls himself “The Wolf of Airbnb.”
The company claims that Konrad Bicher is running a short-term rental business in its luxury MiMa rental tower in Hell’s Kitchen with an associate who owes more than $100,000 in rent.
“His modus operandi is to enter into leases for Manhattan residential apartments or, as here, worm his way into occupancy, and to run a type of ‘bust-out’ operation,’” attorneys for the landlord wrote in a lawsuit filed last week.
“That includes renting the apartment out as a profit center through Airbnb, Peerspace and other similar platforms for short-term rentals, failing to pay rent, using the pandemic and laws related thereto to delay any proceedings, and to vacate on the point of eviction.”
Related alleges that Bicher is using a 43rd-floor apartment in the rental tower at 450 West 42nd Street as a hotel-type rental. The unit is leased to Haley Frey, who is also named as a defendant in the suit. In February, Frey was ordered by a judge in another case to pay nearly $111,000 in back rent on the rent-stabilized apartment.
Reached by text, Bicher told The Real Deal that he hasn’t lived in the apartment in over a year and that Frey would occasionally rent the unit out on Airbnb.
A person who identified herself on the phone as Frey said she had rented the apartment out as a hotel room a handful of times and stopped when building management told her to. She claimed that Related illegally locked her out of the apartment and that she moved out in November.
A representative for Related did not respond to a request for comment. The company has gone after Airbnb rentals at the MiMa before. In a precedent-setting case in 2015, an appeals court upheld the eviction of Henry Ikezi from his swanky two-bedroom penthouse there.
Bicher and Frey did not say how they knew each other but they appear to be in the same line of business. Frey is a defendant in two other non-payment cases for apartments uptown, and for one of them she is using an attorney who also represents Bicher.
As TRD previously reported, the 30-year-old Bicher has been accused by a handful of landlords of operating illegal short-term rentals while claiming Covid rent hardships and trying to strongarm buyouts from property owners.
Bicher previously told TRD he has simply found a loophole in the system. He texted that his landlords have tried to stop him by cutting power lines, painting his apartment doors, installing cameras, changing locks and flooding his apartments.
“In New York, tenants have rights,” he wrote. “I am exercising my rights as a tenant, yet I am portrayed as a scammer.”