Spot the Airbnb outlaw in your building: A big NYC landlord offers tips

By Leigh Kamping-Carder  | October 3, 2014 - 12:59PM

One of the city’s biggest landlords has launched a new offensive in the battle against illegal sublets, by training staffers to use short-term rental sites like Airbnb, Craigslist and HomeAway--and its advice is actually pretty useful for any annoyed neighbor of an Airbnb junkie.

The Related Companies has instructed building managers to create Airbnb profiles and scan the site every month for illegal listings, then hand over the evidence to the company’s “Airbnb marshals,” according to an internal PowerPoint presentation leaked to Crain’s. (A draft of the slideshow from September even offered managers a $500 gift card for every Airbnb listing they spotted, but that didn’t make it into the final version.)

Since most tenants illegally Airbnb’ing their places don’t list an address, Related advises managers to search for listings within a one-block radius of the building and to survey the pictures for features--like flooring, kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures and common areas--that match. “For example, your building may not have fireplaces,” one slide helpfully notes, “and thus, if a listing has a picture of a fireplace, the host is probably not one of your residents.” The presentation also has recommendations for concierges, porters and handymen, including being on the lookout for residents with a lot of guests or strangers with suitcases in the apartment.

Of course, not everyone has the inclination to rat on their neighbors, nor the time to play amateur online sleuth. But if  your building is being overrun by travelers and orgy enthusiasts, this would be one way to get hard evidence to turn over to your landlord. 

Under city law, tenants are prohibited from renting out their apartments for fewer than 30 days at a time, unless they’re present in the place while the guest is there. Related goes a step further: its leases specifically state that rent-stabilized apartments, which make up the majority of the company’s holdings, “can only be used for living purposes by the resident and their immediate family or other legal occupants,” and guests have to get authorized to visit. Many other landlords include provisions in their leases banning short-term rentals.

Oh, and if you’re the neighbor bringing the strangers into the building, consider yourself warned.


How to avoid an Airbnb squatter nightmare

Lessons from an Astoria man who made $18,000 on Airbnb--legally

8 tips for NYC Airbnb hosts, from a pair of Airbnb junkies

Rent your apartment as a hotel and your broker could be out of a job 

Rent Coach: Being an Airbnb landlord isn't for everyone


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