Will NY law crack down on Craigslist sublets?

If passed, bill would ban short-term apartment sublets, greatly affecting services like HomeAway, AirBnB, and Craigslist.

The New York state legislature is set to vote this week on a bill that would ban apartment sublets that last less than a month, which if passed would have a significant impact on online vacation rental services like AirBnB, Roomorama, HomeAway, and even classifieds behemoth Craigslist.

In recent years, there's been a surge in popularity for short-term apartment rentals and housing exchange services that let users offer anything from luxury lofts to pull-out couches--especially in states like New York, whose eponymous island metropolis is known for housing prices so exorbitant that many tourists seek alternatives to hotels and residents look for a way to make up for sky-high rents and mortgages. Online services like HomeAway and AirBnB have made the whole process more accessible and less sketchy, opening up short-term sublets to a market that might not be comfortable with Craigslist.

Right now, this practice is only illegal if the renter or homeowner lives in a building in which it's explicitly against the rules. But the bill, known as A10008, would ban sublets of less than a month in "Class A multiple dwellings," a legal term that encompasses most apartment buildings intended for long-term residences. (There's also the "Class B multiple dwelling" designation referring to more temporary housing, like a hotel, rooming house, dormitory, or residences "designed as private dwellings but occupied by one or two families with five or more transient boarders, roomers, or lodgers in one household.")

Supporters of the bill say that it's an issue of safety, citing fire codes and housing maintenance regulations; they also bring up tax issues, the claim that it's illegal to run an apartment building as a hotel, and that short-term sublets can easily lead to scams.

Opponents of the bill say it's an infringement of homeowners' rights and have accused supporters of caving to pressure from hotel industry lobbyists who see the lower rates on the likes of Craigslist and AirBnB as a threat.

"The accommodations it seeks to prohibit are...offered by NYC tenants and apartment owners who are acting within the bounds of their agreements with their tenants, condominium management, and co-op boards," one commenter on the bill remarked. "If these organizations or individuals feel there is a liability or inconvenience to allowing overnight guests in their non-hotel buildings, that should be their choice--not the choice of politicians who receive perks and campaign donations from corporations owning hotels."

 

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