Tl;dr: I have to make some changes and writing it out to an understanding audience helps me solve my dilemma… or at least clarify my options.
Well, a local host had a long (over an hour), anonymous chat with the director in charge of all the short term housing regulations and asked him all the questions we (NYC Hosts trying to stay legal) been trying to get answered. It turns out we are illegally hosting.
Everyone thought single family homes were excluded from the laws (because, ostensibly, the rules are to prevent apartment buildings from becoming hotels), but that’s not true. Oops. (I even asked my local council member last autumn, but he never got back to me. I did try.)
And, while we’re good under all the other laws (so.many.laws), the new law (as of this February) explicitly says you can’t have more than 2 lodgers at a time in your house. Double oops.
Now, they are prioritizing the big fish and people whose neighbors have complained, but they have our data. I wasn’t illegal until this February, but they have my info now. This makes me uncomfortable.
I don’t have to go dark and hide under a rock, but I do have to make some decisions and I’d like your advice. I understand no one here is a lawyer, but you are hosts.
(Reminder, I have one “shared space” that sleeps 1, and a “private room” that sleeps 2)
- Choose one listing and put it to sleep, accepting no new bookings on it for the foreseeable future
- Go through and manually block any nights on one listing that the other is booked so I don’t cross the two guest threshold
- Choose one listing and cancel everything on it and close it forever amen
- Put both listings to sleep/close, because maybe it’s time to retire from hosting…
- Change nothing, we’re small fry, why would they harass us?
I could do both 1 & 2, though #2 seems like a lot of work and it won’t be enough to protect me since i’ve already had 3 guests booked at once at least twice since February, 2019.
#3 leaves a bad taste in my mouth. We have several bookings this month alone who would have to scramble to find lodging, and i’m kind of thinking why close the barn doors after the horses have fled? If they want to fine us, we’ve already unwittingly broken the law. The law doesn’t care if it’s witting or not.
#4 & 5 both seem extreme/ unnecessary/ unwise, but I don’t know.
Complicating all of this is, all of these laws assume as a matter of course that your house has a certificate of occupancy. The fact that you host more than 2 people violates the 1 family certificate.
These certificates were handed out from 1940 on. Houses that were built before then and have had no major work since don’t have certificates of occupancy. Cough. Guess who doesn’t have a COO? This girl!
We’re grandfathered in, and in many ways that protects us. In this situation… it does probably protect us, but i’m not eager to press it, you know?
We make more per night, and have a longer rentable season, from the private room… but it is much more work for less grateful guests. The shared room is easy to set up, and guests have way lower expectations. So if I were to put one listing to sleep, it would probably be the private room. Plus then my eldest could move in there and we could store some of our book collection there. (So. Many. Books.)
However, I’ve been on a budgeting kick, trying to save up and invest as much as possible so we could handle multiple financial disasters at once, and with that goal, keeping the private room is more prudent.
A sort of 6th option that gets us the most money legally but is the most disruptive to our family: separate them by season. The shared space (our porch) is basically unheated so we haven’t made it available half the year anyway. So make it official, the shared space is only available May-August, the private room is only available September- January. (No one books us January-April, because hotels are cheap then)
But ugh, I don’t think it’s worth doing that for longer than this year. If I can’t make money from it for more than 4 months, I want to take it back for my family.
Thanks for reading this far, if you have.
Wish me luck!