An undercover sting operation against Airbnb exposed renters rampantly letting our their homes and running illegal hotels.
New York State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) conducted the sting operation of Airbnb illegal hotel use.
As well as dozens of individuals bilking the system, the sting uncovered an entire company with over 200 units operating an Airbnb, in violation of the law.
“This undercover investigation exposed that Airbnb is an enabler of the rampant illegal activity and is robbing New York City of precious units of affordable housing,” said Rosenthal.
“We were able to identify unlawful hotel operations with just the click of a mouse and a camera. Seeing firsthand how easy Airbnb makes it to illegally rent residential units, it’s no surprise why we are losing so much affordable housing.”
Assemblymember Rosenthal began the sting operation by first identifying hosts with “entire home/apartments” and multiple listings to ensure that only serial violators were targeted, as it is illegal to rent an entire home/apartment for fewer than 30 days without being present under state law.
During the course of one week, Airbnb user accounts were created, rooms were booked, and a site visit of each rental unit was conducted, chronicling all interactions with hosts, other guests, and building residents.
Highlights Of The Sting Operation
• In the first rental unit visited, the host had at least seven rental units, and admitted that he does not live in the apartment, renting it was in violation of the law, and that if anyone asks, Rosenthal was told to say she was a friend and not mention Airbnb.
• The second rental unit was located in a large apartment building and Rosenthal was told by a building resident that the landlord rented a number of units as a hotel for tourists.
• The third rental unit was actually controlled by a rental company, not an actual tenant, with over 200 rental units, and the “host” was just a rental agent.
• The fourth rental unit was located in a 421-A building, and the host explicitly advertised on Airbnb that the apartment is used exclusively as a hotel rental for tourists and that no one lived in that rental unit full time.
A spokesman for Airbnb told CBS2 news, “Nobody supports bad actors who turn apartments into large-scale illegal hotels.”
He said city enforcement agencies should be targeting illegal hotel operators, but also that rental laws need to be clarified.