Beth Buczynski

Airbnb Scores Huge Victory in NYC’s Short-Term Rental Debate

by , 10/01/13
filed under: Brooklyn,Manhattan,Queens

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In a huge win for the sharing economy in New York City, Airbnb announced an important legal victory this week for those who rent out their spare rooms using the online platform. In May, Airbnb host Nigel Warren was fined $2,400 by the city for renting out his bedroom to strangers while on vacation (the city claimed this was a violation of short-term rental laws). Airbnb vowed to appeal the case for Warren, and today a judged decided that no crime had in fact been committed, and ordered the city to refund the full amount of the fine.

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Airbnb, like Uber, Lyft, Hailo and other collaborative consumption companies, has recently found itself on the wrong side of the law in some major cities. On the surface, the platforms seem simple and brilliant – allow people to give others access to unused resources for a modest fee. However, the idea of peer-to-peer sharing of cars, houses, and other assets has been so popular that established industries have started to bite back over the lost business.

New York alone has about 30,000 Airbnb hosts, generating about $1 billion in local economic activity per year. However, in Nigel’s case, a complaint was filed and an administrative law judge ruled that residents who rent out their homes on a short-term basis are in violation of the city’s occupancy code and state law.

Airbnb’s successful appeal of this ruling came about on a technicality, however. Warren rented out his room to strangers, yes, but only while his roommate, a permanent resident of the apartment, was present. “The judge agreed that when permanent occupants rent out a room in a space they are currently occupying, it is subject to the “shared space” exception to the short-term rental rules,” reports Fast Co.

This is good news for the thousands of New Yorkers who open their homes to travelers while also occupying the premises. It changes nothing, however, for those who like to rent out their residences while out of town.

“…this ruling doesn’t bless all Airbnb listings in New York, and may in fact make it easier for landlords or neighbors to prosecute hosts who are renting out their entire spaces or even maintain empty apartments just for the purpose of hosting,” reports Fast Co.

Still, when it comes to clarification of the law, the ruling is a win for the overall sharing economy. ”This decision was a victory for the sharing economy and the countless New Yorkers who make the Airbnb community vibrant and strong,” wrote David Hantman, head of Global Public Policy at Airbnb, on the company blog. “As I said last summer, the sharing economy is here to stay, and so are we.”

via Fast Company

Images: Wikimedia Commons and Flickr

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