A City Council bill that would require the host of short-term rentals on websites such as Airbnb’s to register their homes with the city and get them inspected by engineers pits the short-term rental company against a hotel industry hobbled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The legislation aims to curtail the thousands of apartments that are being illegally used as hotels, said the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Ben Kallos.
Hotels argue that the rental schemes are hurting their business by offering less expensive, more flexible alternatives to tourists. The schemes also reduce the city’s stock of affordable housing by letting apartments be used for short-term stays rather than for full-time residents, the hotels point out.
“This legislation would place hotels on an equal playing field to compete with legal short-term rentals for customers in New York City, especially as the city begins to welcome more tourists and the hospitality industry begins to rebound from the pandemic,” said Vijay Dandapani, president of the Hotel Association of New York City.
But Airbnb and its hosts, as well as other critics of the city’s plan, say the bill’s restrictions are confusing and onerous. The restrictions will make it more difficult for people who depend on rental income to list their home, they added.
The bill includes a requirement that hosts have an architect or engineer inspect their property for safety and notarize a certificate—which is an expensive process and doesn’t exist for Airbnbs anywhere else on the continent, said Alexandra Dagg, regional policy director for the company.
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Hosts of legal short-term apartment rentals are not subject to the same tax charges that hotels are, including the hotel occupancy tax—which the company is trying to change, Dagg said.
“There are millions of dollars being left off the table here,” she said.
The company, which has been negotiating with Kallos, said it is concerned about how many licenses will be offered and who will be eligible for them.
Kallos said there will be no cap on the number of people allowed to secure a license.
“I don’t believe in market caps,” the councilman said.
The bill would require the host of the property to be the person who resides there. If the person living there does not own the unit, he or she would have to have written consent from the owner.
Under current city law, an entire apartment or home cannot be rented to a visitor for less than a 30-day period. If a guest is staying for fewer than 30 days, the host must be present in the unit.
There are more than 36,000 New York City homes currently listed on Airbnb. Nearly half of them are in Manhattan, according to data from watchdog Inside Airbnb.
Some of them require a 30-night minimum stay, but others are listed as entire apartments with minimums of four or five nights. Nearly 300 apartments in the city are available for a weekend in October, according to the company’s website.
State law bars rent-controlled units and public housing from being listed on Airbnb. Fines for not complying with the law range from $250 per day to charges of up to $15,000.
Airbnb plans to testify against the bill at a hearing Monday.