New York officials have ruled that a man who rented out part of his apartment on Airbnb should pay $2,400 for violating the city's illegal hotel law. The 2011 law against illegal hotels, which prevents landlords from renting property for less than a 30-day period, was enforced for the first time on Monday when New York officials determined that Nigel Warren, a New York "host" who rented out a room in his East Village apartment, violated the ordinance because he was absent when the space was occupied by the renter.
While there have multiple reports challenging the legality of the website's practice, city officials have specified how Airbnb can be used in compliance with the law.
“The law basically says that if you have an apartment or if you have a home and you want to rent it out for less than 30 days, you cannot do it unless you are living at that home at the same time,” a representative speaking on behalf of city officials said in an interview.
The representative goes on to explain that under New York state law, if an Airbnb host wants to rent out his living he space, he can do so as long as he, or a housemate, is living there at the same time as the renter.
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Warren’s case started in September when he rented his condo to a woman for a three-day stay. According to the hearing testimony, outlined in the document, his housemate was also living at the apartment at the time.
While Warren had argued for the “shared spaces” exception as a defense, the representative said there was no evidence to prove it.
"This decision runs contrary to the stated intention and the plain text of New York law, so obviously we are disappointed,” Airbnb said in a statement.
The ruling comes as New York City tries to crack down on big landlords taking advantage of Airbnb by turning apartments into mini hotels.
“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 said.
Airbnb goes on in its statement to suggest that hosts like Warren are being targeted by “overzealous enforcement officials.”
“We’re not on a witch hunt or anything like that,” the representative said. “But when someone’s neighbor complains about noise or random people showing up or any type of dangerous issues, the city will go out and inspect the situation.”
No reason has yet been established as to why Warren was targeted.