City Council Bill Takes Aim At Illegal Airbnb Rentals

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Landlords who illegally rent out their apartments as hotel rooms through services such as Airbnb would face tougher fines under a new City Council proposal.

The fine for a first-time offense would skyrocket from $1,000 to $10,000 and the maximum penalty would be $50,000, said City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, who is co-sponsoring the legislation. Violators could also be fined an additional $2,000 per day for each day the original fine is not paid, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

Rosenthal said the current $1,000 first-time fine does little to deter property owners.

“They treat it as the cost of doing business,” she said.

“We’re going to move to a system where there’s no financial incentive to behave as an illegal hotel operator. And that’s the goal of increasing the fines,” Rosenthal added.

In October, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said nearly three-quarters of the New York City listings offered by Airbnb violate city or state laws. Some opponents have argued the service shrinks the city’s stock of affordable housing.

“For those individuals pushing our tenants out because they want to use those apartments for illegal hotels, it’s unacceptable and they should be accountable, and that’s why we’re increasing the penalty,” said City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rosenthal.

Airbnb claims to have removed from its rolls a number of those who have illegally rented their places. The company says 90 percent of its hosts have only one listing and do rent their homes for just a few days a year.

Rosenthal and Rodriguez also introduced a second bill that would require regular reporting of the number of complaints, inspections and violations as well as penalties assessed and collected.

The bills already have quite a bit of support among council members who say they’ve been looking for legislative ways to crack down on illegal hotels, CBS2’s Elise Finch reported.

“I think we’ve started making a difference with the enforcement on this already. We just need to take it all the way,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams.

And most New Yorkers who spoke with Finch said they’re in favor of the proposed legislation.

“The pocketbook is where people get hit and so I think that would make people think about it,” said Bruce Patrick, of the Upper West Side.

“On the other hand, I think we need some alternatives for tourists besides the very high priced hotel rooms that exist,” said Katie Eisenstadt, of the Upper West Side.

Hearings will likely be held on both bills in the fall and a vote is expected by the end of the year.

If the bills are signed into law, they would go into effect immediately.

More From CBS New York

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
Get Our Morning Briefs

Watch & Listen LIVE