Coalition Against Illegal Hotels: Support Intro. 2309

(CAIH) Tom Cayler, May 28, 2021

Memorandum of Support: Intro. 2309 (Kallos, Rivera, Rosenthal)

A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to requiring registration for short-term rentals and booking services

The Coalition Against Illegal Hotels supports this important legislation, and urges the City Council to pass it before the end of 2021. CAIH is a group of neighborhood and tenant organizations who have been fighting illegal hotels since 2004, before there was an Airbnb.

According to Inside Airbnb, one short-term rental (STR) platform alone currently lists 37,012 units; more than half (19,397 or 52.4 percent) are entire homes or apartments. The listed apartments in buildings with three or more units are clearly illegal unless the tenant or shareholder is present during the rental, and unless the tenant or shareholder has permission from the landlord or coop to engage in this activity.

The city estimates that more than 85 percent of active STR listings are illegal as they violate either the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, New York City Housing Maintenance Code, zoning rules, and/or the New York City Fire Code. 

This legislation, by requiring hosts to apply for and obtain a registration number in order to operate a STR business in New York City, would not only preserve our affordable housing, but at the same time protect legal STR hosts. Platforms would be barred from listing any rental where the host lacks a valid registration number, and hosts engaging in illegal activity would not qualify for a license. Violations could lead to penalties of $250 per day or more, depending on the frequency of the violations, and revocation of license.

Cities throughout the U.S. have or are adopting STR registration systems. Santa Monica’s ordinance, upheld after three separate federal court challenges brought by Airbnb, is perhaps the most successful, and is the model upon which this bill is drafted.

Platforms such as Airbnb will not police their sites for illegal activity. While they put Black and brown homeowners forward as their typical host, their greatest profits come from illegal hotels, apartments that landlords and other bad actors convert from long-term residential to nightly rental status, thus exacerbating the shortage of affordable housing.

The Coalition Against Illegal Hotels supports this important bill and urge its prompt passage.