Imagine this scenario:

Your 10th guest, or maybe your 100th guest, has just walked in the door. You’re giving them the grand tour of your place, explaining the tricks to the remote control, and showing off your customized house manual when your guest hesitantly asks: “Is your Airbnb legal?”f Jaw drop.

Do you know if your Airbnb is legal according to New York City and State law? What’s this new home sharing law people are emailing you about?  Ahhhhh!

Before you go into panic mode, let’s make sure you have all of the information you need to know.

In a nutshell, New York State has just passed what is called an “Anti-Airbnb” law through the Senate and the Assembly. As of this month, June 2016, it is awaiting the Governor’s signature for it to pass and become state law. This “Anti-Airbnb” law will fine hosts who advertise their Class A multiple dwelling private apartments (I’ll explain below) on vacation rental listing sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, Flip Key, Craigslist, as well as personal websites, newspapers, and even flyers. Yes, even little ol’ flyers. Crazy! What's even more crazy are the fines for such violations. Fines start at $1,000 and go up to $7,500!

NOTE:  This “Anti Airbnb” law isn’t on the books, yet. Governor Cuomo needs to sign the bill for it to become a final and enforceable law.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a lawyer, accountant, employee of Airbnb or play any of the above on TV. I have been involved in the home sharing economy since 2010 and wanted to clarify these issues for those who might not know. In addition, if you are legal with the city and state, that's great, but also please do check with your Co-op Board or landlords for their guidelines.

Why are the city and state trying to pass this law prohibiting advertising of your private apartment?

Since 2010, we have had a law in NY City and State, which prohibits the rental of a private apartment in a Class A Multiple dwelling.

A Class A Multiple Dwelling is a home or building with three or more apartments.

Yes, legal? No, legal? Have no clue, legal? Well, let me fill you in… just in case.

Remember if you’re legal with the city and state, please do check with your Co-op Board or landlords for their guidelines.

You may not fit this profile, but there are many NY hosts who currently host and rent their full apartment without realizing that they might be in code violation of the 2010 NYC renting/home sharing law. You always want to be on the right side of the law…. It’s just better that way. You NEVER want to be surprised, like these hosts who were part of a sting operation by NY Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal.

Does This Law Affect You?

The new law does NOT apply to you if:

  • You live in a one or two family home:
    • You can rent a private bedroom and or apartment in your  family home for any length of time.
    • You can rent a shared space (your sofa bed) for any length of time.
    • Basically, you are the King or Queen of your castle.

The new law does NOT apply to you if:

  • You live in a Class A Multiple Dwelling (three family or bigger building) and…
    • You rent your private apartment for more than 30 days consecutively.
    • You rent a private bedroom for any length of time. Note: You must be staying in the same apartment with your guests.
    • You rent a shared space (the air mattress or sofa bed) for any length of time). Note: You must be staying in the same apartment with your guests.

The new law (in violation) DOES apply to you if:

  • You live in a Class A Multiple Dwelling (three family or bigger building) and…
    • You want to rent your Private Apartment or Private Room when you take that two week vacation. Ooops, no.
    • You want to rent your Private Apartment or Private Room for the weekend because you’re off to the Hamptons. Sorry, you’re breaking the law since you will not be in the apartment with your guests.
    • You want to rent your Private Apartment or Private Bedroom for less than 30 days because you’re at boyfriend/girlfriend’s place for days and you want to make some cash. Yeah, you’re in violation.
    • You go visit your grandchildren a few times a year but definitely less than 30 days at a time and you… Well, you get the picture. You’re breaking the law!

The New Law!

If you are in the above violations and are found ADVERTISING on your own website, newspaper, Airbnb, Craigslist, or you post flyers at the laundromat…. It doesn’t matter. You’re breaking the NEW law.

NOTE:  As of June 2016 this “Anti Airbnb” law isn’t on the books, yet. Governor Cuomo needs to sign the bill for it to become a final and enforceable law.

Why this New Law?

Because New York is trying to enforce the 2010 law. Huh?

The new law prohibits the ADVERTISEMENT of a private apartment listing if you live in a Class A multiple dwelling and are in violation of the stipulations (Refer to Graphic).

What constitutes ADVERTISE?

Any form of communication for marketing of your listing. i.e.:

  • Newspapers
  • Flyers
  • Craigslist
  • Listing on Airbnb, or any other short-term rental platforms

What are the FINES? Oh, oh.

This graphic may look pretty, but the fines…AREN’T!

How will the City Enforce this Law?

CIA? FBI? 007?

None of the above!

Bill de Blasio, our current NYC Mayor, allocated 10 million dollars (yes, $10 million) to create the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement to come after “illegal hotels,” yes, under current law, you are now considered a hotel. Our current mayor is NOT a big fan or supporter of home sharing. He might prefer you apply for assistance, but that’s a whole other subject.

The tech industry has demonstrated support for Airbnb and stated that NY is now against tech. While  you have the hotel unions providing money to push these laws.

What is Airbnb Saying?

In a statement to TechCrunch Airbnb Head of New York Public Policy Josh Meltzer said: “Let’s be clear: this is a bad proposal that will make it harder for thousands of New Yorkers to pay the bills. Dozens of governments around the world have demonstrated that there is a sensible way to regulate home sharing, and we hope New York will follow their lead and protect the middle class.”

In the past, Airbnb has delisted apartments. This first happened in 2014, when Airbnb was mandated to present an anonymized report to the Attorney General, Eric Schneider. The last purge was in 2015 of hosts with more than one private apartment.

Will they do this again? Who knows if they will, but like the Boy Scouts say, “Always be prepared.”

What Can You Do If You’re Legal?

It’s better to be active because you never know. The next law might affect you.

What can you do to take action?

Sign up to Airbnb NYC, and/or you can contact the NY Governor’s Office and let him know your opinion.

Of course, you can also sit back and relax. No judgment!

If a guest asks about your legal status, inform them. Bottom line, you always want your guests to be worry free.

I do recommend contacting past guests, too. Believe it or not, they want to know. I know this because guests and other hosts have contacted me asking about my legal status.

Airbnb continues to state that mosts hosts are only renting their own residence and not a separate apartment. That’s great but it’s NOT Airbnb the State will come after…. So be informed.

Is This New Law Fair?

Fair is a tricky word. This is a very complicated issue. Part of the problem stemmed from some hosts and landlords taking multiple unit apartments and renting them out on short-term platforms. These hosts/landlords never lived in these buildings and used these multiple unit apartments to make money. The argument with this practice is that it removes housing from the local market and in turn raises local rents.

Understood…but there’s two sides to every coin.

I have always been an advocate of the sharing economy and home sharing, whether it's Airbnb, Home Away, Flipkey, etc. The truth is, I know many hosts who are saving their homes from foreclosure with the income Airbnb provides.

Airbnb saved my home from foreclosure and continues to do so. I have spoken to the press, letting them know my story. I’ve written about my trip to speak to members of the New York State Assembly in Albany and my testimony at the City Council, where I almost cried.

The reality is that Airbnb isn’t going away in NY. The genie is out of the bottle, and New Yorkers, like many others, realize how lucrative Airbnb can be.

The question becomes: Will  these fines deter people from advertising their places on Airbnb, VRBO, Craigslist, websites, newspapers, and yes, even those flyers? Only time will tell.

Be informed, and pass it on!

Come on over and join our Facebook Group The Hosting Journey where we discuss from the legal issues to how to remove that stain. ‘Cause your friends are tired of hearing you talk about your guests.

Want to read the actual bills?

Here is the Senate Bil S634

Here is the Assembly Bill AB704:

Here is Airbnb’s page about New York laws:

Current Multiple Dwelling law

Get the Ultimate Room-to-Room Checklist

Get the Ultimate Room-to-Room Checklist

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!