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I’ve been a superhost for a number of years and this morning my guest was visited by the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) - a rep and 2 POs, she said they took photos and asked a few questions, and left. They were visiting other units in the apt building (I only rent 1 unit, but there are other tenants that have lockboxes (WAG and unmarked) outside the building so I don’t know what other activiites are going on.
I’m scared…what’s going to happen next and I want to know what actions I can take…so many media reports on OSE Raids going after big operators - I’m just 1 person renting out my place to make ends meet, and this has never happend before. I looked on the DOB website and there was a building complaint a year ago about Airbnb activity in the building (did not indicate which unit) but it was closed (officer visited but did not get access to apartments)
Any constructive advice or actions to take would be helpful. Thanks.
I am very sorry to hear that. It sounds like your privacy and your guest’s privacy, sense of security and general well being were put into jeopardy by over-reach of the government. If I were there, I would’ve asked to see a warrant and refused to answer any questions. Of course most people don’t think that way and will cooperate. They have their evidence and because an adult who was authorized to be there gave consent, that evidence is admissible.
For now, I wouldn’t do anything. If you get trouble from the mayor’s office, I would delete the listing and possibly your account and then start fresh. Don’t list the exact address, just the street. Don’t list the number of the unit or provide pictures of the building, from a window, of your front door or anything that could possibly identify your unit from outside. Don’t use your real picture or your real name on your account. I do all of these things myself and its not because Airbnb is illegal where I am. Its because its nobody’s business and once you start making money, everybody gets mad and nosy that they can see you’re making money and they aren’t. Now if you had legitimate complaints coming in from neighbors, that would be different. But don’t give anyone ammunition to stalk you with, look your information up online, talk to a landlord, talk to the mayor or anybody.
Airbnb is illegal in New York City unless you are sharing your home. And even then there are many limits. @Alia_Gee is a host there who is sharing her home and has posted about her concerns. Airbnb has also agreed to share information with the city government and the fines are stiff.
I’m not an expert on the New York law but @Mexican’s advice should probably be ignored unless you have deep pockets.
I read that the law says the owner/leaseholder must reside onsite during the stay, so staying with your partner while the guests are in your listing would make it illegal and any action taken against you as a result of the OSE visit probably depends on what the guest told them.
I certainly don’t advise using stealth to continue hosting. You may not be doing anything illegal, but if you know that you’re hosting illegally and you still do it, then you deserve whatever penalties are imposed upon you. It really doesn’t matter that you’re doing it to make ends meet. If that made it acceptable, then a guy selling crack in the alley could say the same thing.
I agree fully. If you know you are operating illegally, you deserve the full force of the law. It’s not like you haven’t be warned/advised. The reason you are doing something illegal has no weight in the eyes of the law. Break the law…pay the price.
I highly recommend you join the NYC Airbnb host group on Facebook. A lot of us thought we were legal (I live in my single family home while I host shared spaces) but it turns out we weren’t.
I’ve adjusted what I offer going forward this season. Also, this is probably the last year we will do short term rentals, as the cash isn’t worth the credible fear of $30k fines.
I am not a lawyer, but if I were you i would adjust my listing so it is no longer a full unit but a shared space. Buy yourself a futon. Even if you choose to spend the night elsewhere, you are still living in that space.
Then, hope that the OSE chooses to go after the bigger fish first.