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Is My Airbnb Legal? Chances are, it’s not.

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In New York City residential property located in an apartment building must be used for “permanent resident purposes.” According to New York State’s “Multiple Dwelling Law,” (“MDL”), which was passed in 2010, it’s illegal for an apartment to be rented out for fewer than 30 days, unless the apartment “host” is also present and occupying the unit.  This practice of renting out part of an apartment for less than 30 days has been termed “room sharing.”  However, unless you’re a licensed hotel, it remains illegal to have paying guests for less than 30 days in an otherwise unoccupied apartment.  Violations of New York’s MDL can result in steep fines of $1,000 to $5,000 for a first offense, and last fall, the New York City council held a hearing on a hotly contested bill that proposed raising fines against illegal hotel operators.

Now, even sticking to the letter of the law and renting your apartment for more than 30 days does not guarantee that you’re in the clear.  Depending on your building, you may still be in violation of your lease or your building’s rules.  It is not uncommon for a building to bar short-term rentals entirely.  If you happen to live in a condo or co-op, the building’s board may impose additional fines to violators, or even commence an eviction proceeding in more serious cases.  If you’re a renter, make sure to check with your landlord first.  You may not be entirely aware of the building restrictions, and short term rentals may violate your lease.

What does the future have in store for Airbnb in New York?  In November, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly pledged $10 million to go after violations of short-term rental laws over the next 3 years.  While Airbnb still faces an uphill battle in New York, don’t count them out.  The company is working on a grassroots public relations and lobbying strategy aimed at getting favorable legislation passed in New York on the state level.  At the end of 2015, Airbnb successfully completed a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign.  However, getting legislation passed to overturn the MDL is still a huge hurdle and even if it’s successful there, Airbnb will still have to get past individual building restrictions.

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