Attorney General: Most of NYC’s Airbnb Listings Are Illegal

by Lark Turner

Attorney General: Most of NYC's Airbnb Listings Are Illegal: Figure 1

A fight in court over Airbnb’s presence in New York City took a more heated turn on Monday when the state attorney general’s office filed an affidavit indicating two-thirds of Airbnb’s listings in the city are illegal sublets (or were as of January 31). Airbnb is appearing in court on Tuesday, where a ruling on whether the site violated state law is expected.

An analysis of data taken from the site in January by an extraction company showed the following:

  • There were 19,522 listings on Airbnb in New York City with 15,677 hosts.
  • Most hosts had just one listing. But a number of super-users — 1,849 hosts to be specific — held the lion’s share of the listings, with 5,964 under their control. So 12 percent of hosts on Airbnb in New York City control 30 percent of all listings.
  • The biggest user had 80 listings on the site at the time of the data extraction.
  • More than 60 percent of the listings were for an entire apartment, meaning they were an illegal sublet under New York City law. Thirty-four percent were a private room, while 2.3 percent offered a shared room.

Airbnb scrubbed some of the super-users, and more than 2,000 listings, from the site on Monday and sent out an email to New York City landlords, which they also posted online. In the email, the site’s top spokesman rails against the attorney general and suggests users should fear for their privacy because the office is asking Airbnb to furnish more details about hosts.

“On Tuesday, Airbnb will be in court in Albany, fighting the Attorney General’s demand for your data. The government will accuse Airbnb hosts of being bad neighbors and bad citizens. They’ll call us slumlords and tax cheats. They might even say we all faked the moon landing,” the company’s spokesman, David Hantman, wrote. “Short term rental laws were never meant to apply to New Yorkers occasionally renting out their own home.”

DC has many such super-users on the site as well. Though DCRA gave UrbanTurf a guide to help hosts be compliant with local regulations, the site’s operations haven’t been pursued by a legal authority in the District.

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This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/new_york_attorney_general_says_most_of_nycs_airbnb_listings_are_illegal/8389


  1. mona said at 8:08 pm on Tuesday April 22, 2014:
    I think in DC there are already a ton of "illegal" rentals going on. So many basement apartments are rented out without CofO and basic business license. I think the only time people get in trouble with this is if the tenants act up. I know several homes where they have basement rentals and none of that income is being reported or is the city aware of the rental. The minute the tenant starts going off the chain and the owner isn't willing to come in and put a stop to it, then they get reported to DCRA. DC, to a certain extent, is use to this already. It is an unwritten rule that you do what you want with your house and the minute it becomes my problem then the city finds out. AirBnB will probably operate very quietly and efficiently in the city as long as tenants are respectful of their communities and don't cause a disturbance.
  1. Mike said at 8:42 pm on Tuesday April 22, 2014:
    It would be interesting to learn if anyone has done a study of Airbnb rentals in DC. The problem in DC is more than illegal basement units rented out for a few months or years. The real, and growing, problem affects DC condos and co-ops where unit owners are promoting their units in competition with hotels as daily rentals for tourists or others who are in town for a short period of time such as workers for a few days or for a week, etc.. Such daily rentals are typically in violation of a condo's or co-op's Bylaws and/or House Rules. These rentals jeopardize security as well as quiet. The City Counsel will need to address the issue as the problem continues unabated.
  1. John Cowherd said at 4:29 pm on Thursday April 24, 2014:
    It is interesting that Airbnb chose to put B&B in their name. B&B's are regulated as hotels, not landlord-tenant operations, and thus have greater compliance issues. The name seems to invite controversy. I have a blog post about legal issues surrounding short term rentals in Virginia's urban and tourist areas: http://bit.ly/1jVa05D

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