Small homeowners are getting caught up in the Airbnb crackdown

The enforcement comes despite the mayor’s assurances

Bill de Blasio and a residential Staten Island street (Credit: Getty Images and Unsplash)
Bill de Blasio and a residential Staten Island street (Credit: Getty Images and Unsplash)

As the city seeks to tackle unregulated hotels with its crackdown on short-term rentals, one- and two-family homes are facing enforcement measures, too.

Owners of 139 single and two-family homes received 718 violations from the city in 2018, Politico reported. In the previous year, the city issued 781 penalties at 162 sites.

While that figure pales in comparison to the number of tickets issued to multifamily buildings, it illustrates how small homeowners have not been exempt from the city’s approach — despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s comments about “not trying to go after the little guy.”

Those who only “occasionally” rent out apartments or individual rooms are not the city’s targets, he previously said. “It’s something they do to make some money on the side. I’ve got no problem with that.”

According to city officials, exempting one- and two-family homes from the enforcement push isn’t easy. The city’s zoning code prohibits any change in a property’s use without public review. Even renting a single-family home for a week-long vacation would be unlawful, the report said.

The increased enforcement is largely based on complaints from neighbors. The Office of Special Enforcement said 35 percent of the city’s 919,847 units in one- and two-family homes are rentals. Those homes make up close to 30 percent of the city’s housing stock.

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“As illegal short-term rentals proliferate at alarming rates, commercial operators are taking away units of housing throughout the city and across building types,” said Christian Klossner, executive director of the Office of Special Enforcement. “Each piece of the housing stock is critical to the city’s well-being, and every neighborhood deserves to have its housing protected.”

City Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., a Brooklyn Democrat, tried to protect one- and two-family homes from enforcement through legislation last year. No one signed onto the bill, and the de Blasio administration later expressed concerns with it, his spokesperson, Kegan Sheehan, said.

City Hall is planning to present proposed changes to the legislation “to help mitigate the burden of enforcement on one- and two-family homeowners in some other way,” according to a spokesperson for Council member Robert Cornegy Jr.

Staten Island homeowner Patricia Corredor said she wasn’t aware she was breaking the law when she started listing her two-family home on Airbnb in 2013. Four years later, she was fined $3,500 for transient occupancy and fire safety violations.

“I did not see [violations] as a possibility… I didn’t feel that I was a threat,” she said. “It’s not like I was committing a crime. I hate thinking that I had to hide, because this shouldn’t be a crime.” [Politico] — Meenal Vamburkar