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New legislation spells seriously steep penalties for NYC Airbnb hosts—if it's enforced

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In spite of Airbnb's very public, very expensive battle against the new rules, last week Governor Cuomo signed new legislation making it illegal to advertise an apartment for less than 30 days on the short-term rental platform, the New York Times reports. The new legislation is an extension of laws that have been on the books since 2010 banning short-term rentals in apartment buildings with three or more units, but creates a way for officials to directly prosecute the hosts themselves.

With fines that could run as much as $7,500, Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal called the legislation "a bold step that will hopefully set a standard for the rest of the country and other countries in the world struggling with the impact of Airbnb on affordable housing." Naturally, Airbnb has already filed a lawsuit against New York State, saying the legislation would cause "irreparable harm" and citing the new rules against advertising as a free speech issue, among other things. For the time being, the state has agreed not to enforce the new regulations until the lawsuit is resolved.

But looking ahead, New Yorkers face a more pressing question: once the rules are enforced, how will the city go about this?

As Gothamist points out, the crackdown on hosts falls under the jurisdiction of the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement, which issues fines on a "complaint-only basis," and won't be poring through listings to find violations. If no one reports a given listing—or if it doesn't overtly specify that it's available for periods of under 30 days, with the host off-site—plenty of wayward listings could still slip through the cracks.

As before, residents can call 311 to report illegal hotel activity in their buildings, and Melissa Grace from the Mayor's Press Office tells us via email that once the legal dispute with Airbnb has cleared, "We are taking the steps necessary to enforce the law. We take on operators of illegal hotels who put people in unsafe conditions and displace affordable homes. We will continue to apply our laws, including this one, to hold bad actors accountable."

And while the city has been unexpectedly rigorous cracking down on townhouse owners renting out units on Airbnb, given Airbnb's new tool for neighbors to report on guest behavior, as well as the growing number of startups geared towards ferreting out illegal listings, hosts who've been illegally renting their apartments may soon find that the jig is up.

 

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