Is it a hotel or isn’t it? Landlords, guests struggle with law

Short-term tenants advised to reference hotels with DOB site

250 Elizabeth Street
250 Elizabeth Street

Booking websites like AirBnB have made it easier to Find A Cheap Place to stay while traveling. It’s also easier, however, to book yourself into a bad situation.

In New York City, it’s against the law for landlords to lease an apartment in a building with three units or more for less than 30 days to transient visitors. According to state law, even renting out just one unit for a short term stay is considered illegal hotel activity. When the city shuts down an illegal hotel, guests can find themselves on the street. 

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Apartment owners say the law can be equally vexing. Landlords are subject to fines for running an illegal hotel, and repeat offenders can be charged up to $25,000, as previously reported.

Despite a court ruling in September in favor of an AirBnB host, the rules governing short-term rentals remain somewhat confusing. Proving adherence to the law can also be difficult. One New York City resident, Amy Parness, lost her lawyer last year when the attorney accused her of fudging the facts when she was accused of illegally subletting her apartment at 250 Elizabeth Street to short-term guests.

The news site Curbed recommends that travelers cross reference any booked unit with the Department of Buildings website, to avoid getting kicked out mid-stay by an inspector shutting down the building. [Curbed]Angela Hunt