Is Airbnb illegal in New York? The answer to that question, which was already pretty cloudy, got even cloudier yesterday. A New York judge decided that a man who rented his East Village condo out for three nights during a trip to Colorado did, in fact, break the law.
Nigel Warren was fined $2,400 for violating the "illegal hotels" law, which forbids property owners (Warren's landlord was actually the one cited, but Warren took the blame to avoid getting evicted) to rent out rooms to “transient” guests. The law—passed in 2010 and updated in 2011—cracks down on enterprising landlords that operate their buildings as unofficial hotels, without complying with fire codes and safety standards and so forth.
Unfortunately for the burgeoning sharing economy, this can be interpreted to apply to tenants who decide to open their home to travellers to make some cash on the side. At least half of Airbnb listings in NYC—thousands of listings—are illegal under the law, though much like jay walking, that hasn't stopped New Yorkers from doing it. At this moment there are 22,704 Airbnb listings in New York City, and growing fast; the 5-year-old startup is now [worth billions of dollars](http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443684104578066811794775602.html?mod=WSJhpLEFTWhatsNewsCollection ).
This time, Airbnb, which had stayed mum on legality issues for years, decided to stick up for its customers. It said in a statement to press that “87 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York list just a home they live in—they are average New Yorkers trying to make ends meet…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."
Until that day of clarity comes, here's some advice on how to use Airbnb without getting busted.
RENT FOR AT LEAST 30 DAYS, AND DON'T RENT OUT THE ENTIRE APARTMENT
That "entire apartment" box you can click while browsing listings? Criminal. The law defines “transient” as anything under 30 days; one month or longer counts as a permanent resident—totally legal. The law also makes an exception to the rule for guests staying in the home of the permanent resident if the permanent resident is also present. If you want to rent while you’re out of town, no money can change hands.