Massively successful room-renting service Airbnb is now illegal in New York City: officials say the startup violates an illegal hotel law that prevents residents from renting out their property for fewer than 29 days.
Fast Company reports that the ruling doesn't mean all Airbnb hosts will have to close up shop, since the city will only enforce the rule when a complaint is filed. Here's Airbnb's statement:
"This decision runs contrary to the stated intention and the plain text of New York law, so obviously we are disappointed. But more importantly, this decision makes it even more critical that New York law be clarified to make sure regular New Yorkers can occasionally rent out their own homes. There is universal agreement that occasional hosts like Nigel Warren were not the target of the 2010 law, but that agreement provides little comfort to the handful of people, like Nigel, who find themselves targeted by overzealous enforcement officials. It is time to fix this law and protect hosts who occasionally rent out their own homes. Eighty-seven percent of Airbnb hosts in New York list just a home they live in—they are average New Yorkers trying to make ends meet, not illegal hotels that should be subject to the 2010 law."
Airbnb is great for tourists, since it's often cheaper (and more fun) to stay in someone's home instead of a hotel. It can be great for local businesses, too, since Airbnb hosts are encouraged to recommend their favorite coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Of course, Airbnb is lucrative for hosts — except they're not all "average New Yorkers trying to make ends meet," as so lovingly described in the above statement.
A 2012 San Francisco Chronicle article illustrated how permanent renters can get fucked over by Airbnb, since some landlords can make much more money renting out apartments to tourists than city residents and "encouraged by lax oversight and lucrative payoffs, use the rental sites to run ad-hoc hotels, which besides annoying neighbors, takes long-term rentals off a market that desperately needs them - and in cities like San Francisco violates zoning regulations."
"Many landlords decided they would be able to make more money by renting (their properties) as tourist space," the president of the San Francisco Tenants' Union, which promotes renters' rights, told the paper "We're seeing a big loss of rental housing stock, which we're already losing through other means. This is added pressure."
The "sharing economy" is fun and all, but it's also important to make sure would-be hoteliers and tourists don't take precedence over the actual community. It'll be interesting to see who, exactly, this law effects.