New York City Enforces Cuba-Style Housing Law Against AirBNB

May 21st, 2013

I recently learned that in Cuba, due to the lack of hotels for the meddling tourists, homeowners are allowed to rent out rooms in their homes. They are called Casas Particulares. But there’s a catch. Not everyone can do so. In addition to meeting minimum housing standards (running water and maybe AC), they need to obtain a permit from the government, in addition to paying a fee. The fee is quite high–so high that the average homeowner cannot afford it. Only those receiving money from off the island can pay for it. No doubt, this largesse is bestowed on those favored in society who are willing to pay the price.

New York City has apparently taken note. In NYC, it is illegal to rent your own apartment for less than 29 days. Instead, you must register as a hotel and comply with all the various hotel and occupancy laws.

In New York it’s illegal to rent an apartment for less than 29 days, Crain’s New York Business reports, but as of May 2013 about 30,000 New Yorkers were signed up as hosts on the service.

Nigel Warren, the defendant in the New York case, was charged with violating the city’s hotel law, as well as building code violations. The administrative law judge presiding over the case dismissed the building code violations, while upholding the hotel law charge. Warren was fined $2,400 for breaking the law.

Warren, who reportedly has rented his apartment for short-term stays three times with Airbnb, told CNET he doesn’t know if he’ll appeal the ruling.

In this case there were no findings that the housing violated any health or safety rules (building code violations were dismissed). Rather, renting out the room violated what is nothing more than a protectionist law aimed at insulating overpriced hotels from competition.