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New enforcement needed to address short-term rental crisis

The New York City Council’s new effort to require home-sharing companies to share their data with the City is a smart and sensible idea.

The proposal would require companies like Airbnb to regularly provide City Hall with the addresses to its listings to ensure that no apartments are illegally rented out over the short-term. Similar legislative efforts are ongoing on the West Coast and it’s time to see how it works in New York City.

We have long expressed the concern that users of services like Airbnb turn rental apartments into short-term rentals, an action that would, on top of being illegal, exacerbate the city’s housing crisis.  City Comptroller Scott Stringer has been an important voice sounding the alarm on this issue as well. The problem occurs because home-sharing services often run into problems adhering to New York’s laws. Anyone can legally “share” their apartment. You can lawfully invite a friend or a stranger over to sleep on your couch or in your extra bedroom. You’re allowed to ask that person to share in the cost.

However, it is illegal to turn your apartment into a short-term hotel rental.  It is against the law to leave your apartment for a few days and rent it out.  It is also illegal to rent an extra apartment for this purpose.

Such behavior reduces our housing supply. Making matters worse is that the city is unable to properly track the addresses of apartments listed.  There is currently no way to objectively quantify and reduce the number of illegally-listed units.

We suspect this data will help City officials respond to constituents who are complaining about units in their building that are being illegally warehoused and rented out. We will be happy to find out that that is not the case. As one of the bill’s supporters, City Council Member Justin Brannan of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, said, “If Airbnb truly has nothing to hide, they would release this data. I’d love for them to prove me wrong.”

The City Council initiative is a sign that it understands New York desperately needs more rental housing to keep pace with our growing population and that illegal short-term rentals are taking housing units off the market.

Unfortunately, the City’s current law and enforcement actions often penalizes a building owner that tries to curb illegal rentals.  The City’s laws and enforcement actions also should focus on tenants who unabashedly skirt the law.  We look forward to reviewing legislation to ensure it provides fair enforcement and holds both tenants and owners to the same set of regulations.

We would even suggest the City Council go a step further by making this information available to the owner of record for the building at the same time as the City.  This would empower responsible building owners with an opportunity to address illegal activity as soon as they become aware of it.  The data would help owners enforce the law within their own buildings where illegal activity is occurring without their knowledge.

Confronting the problem of illegal listings is an important step by the City Council to help make New York City more affordable. REBNY will continue to work with the City Council to on smart policies aimed at increasing the development of rental housing across the city.

In Other REBNY News

Network with and honor outstanding leaders in the field of commercial property management at our 15th Annual Commercial Management Leadership Breakfast on Thursday, May 31 from 7:30 to 10:00 a.m. at the New York Hilton Midtown (1335 Avenue of the Americas). Register now to attend and email [email protected] for sponsorship opportunities.

Save the Date! Our Finance Committee will host its 7th Annual Cocktail Party on Wednesday, June 6th from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 230 Fifth Avenue, Rooftop Lounge. Tickets are $70 for members and $90 for non-members. Email [email protected] for more information and sponsorship opportunities.

Join us for networking, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a review of New York City’s most notable retail deals of 2017 at our 20th Annual Retail Deal of the Year Cocktail Party to be held on Tuesday, June 12from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Club 101 (101 Park Avenue). Sponsors of the event include: Empire State Realty Trust, Manhattan Skyline Management, Eastern Consolidated, Jack Resnick & Sons, Newmark Knight Frank, Ripco Real Estate Corp., Rose Associates, HJ Kalikow & Co., SL Green Realty Corp., Cushman & Wakefield, and JLL. Register online now.

Enjoy a summer day of golf and tennis while networking with NYC real estate professionals at our Annual Golf and Tennis Outing on Monday, July 30th at the North Shore Country Club. Take advantage of this opportunity to advertise your company, sponsor the event, and provide promotional items or raffle donations. Register online and email [email protected] for sponsorship opportunities.

REBNY Residential Brokerage Division Members: Review your sales and rental transactions for the Residential Brokerage Division’s Deal of the Year Contest, and nominate your outstanding colleagues for their professional achievements. Award submissions are due on Friday, September 14 by 5:00 p.m. All awards will be presented at the 30th Annual Residential Brokerage Deal of the Year Charity and Awards Gala on Tuesday, October 30th at the Plaza Hotel. Buy your tickets now. Email [email protected] to purchase a table of 10 at a discounted rate and/or to learn about gala sponsorship opportunities. Event proceeds support the REBNY Member in Need Fund, which provides grants to residential agents who have experienced unexpected illness or financial hardship

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