NYC fines Airbnb hosts for 'illegal' home rentals

State lawmakers issue steep fines to crack down on people listing multiple short-term rentals on the site.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read

Airbnb launched an ad campaign in New York City in 2014 with positive posters in the city's subways.


New Yorkers are seeing the first effects of the Airbnb law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in October.

New York City lawmakers fined two hosts last week for allegedly listing several short-term apartment rentals on Airbnb and similar sites, according to the New York Post. The city charged the two hosts with a combined total of 17 violations. Each violation comes with a $1,000 fine, so that adds up to $17,000.

Airbnb is a home-rental marketplace, founded in 2008, that's gone from catering to couch surfers to having a massive online presence. It now has more than 2 million listings with hosts in more than 34,000 cities in nearly 200 countries. While the site can help people earn money by renting out their home, lawmakers worldwide have raised concerns about Airbnb's role in taking homes off the rental market and tightening the housing crunch.

The New York law went into effect in October but wasn't enforceable until last week. It's been illegal since 2010 for New Yorkers to rent out a whole apartment on Airbnb for fewer than 30 days if they're not present. The new law allows lawmakers to fine hosts for violations. The idea is to crack down on property owners who have essentially capitalized on short-term rentals by converting residential buildings into impromptu hotels.

Airbnb sued New York City over the new law in October, but dropped the lawsuit in December after it was made clear that the city would only levy fines against hosts and not the company. The fines could get up to as much as $7,500 per violation.

"Our opposition to the advertising law has always been that it unfairly exposes New Yorkers who share their home responsibly to large fines," said Airbnb spokesman Peter Schottenfels. "We have long said that we support measures to crack down on bad actors who operate multiple listings, and we look forward to working collaboratively with the city to find a sensible method of enforcement."

The two New York hosts -- property owner Hank Fried and real estate broker Tatiana Cames -- each allegedly listed several apartments on multiple rental sites, including Airbnb, Expedia, Kayak, Booking.com, Hotwire, Travelocity and Orbitz, according to the Post. The properties Cames listed reportedly weren't up to code in regards to fire alarms and sprinklers.

"Last week marked the start of enforcement efforts against bad actors under the new State law that bars advertising of illegal short-term rentals," City Hall spokeswoman Melissa Grace told the Post. "We will continue to use this law, and other enforcement tools, to protect New Yorkers and visitors alike."

This isn't the first case of a city fining Airbnb hosts for violating the law. In Santa Monica, California, the city charged a host who listed five properties on Airbnb with eight misdemeanor violations last July, according to the Los Angeles Times. That host eventually paid $3,500 in fines and agreed to two years probation.

The New York City mayor's office didn't return a request for comment.

Batteries Not Included: The CNET team reminds us why tech stuff is cool.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories you'll find in CNET's newsstand edition.