Personal Finance

Violations for Illegal Airbnb Rentals Are on the Rise in New York

Violations being issued for illegal Airbnb rentals in New York City (NYC) have been on the rise in recent months. These illegal short-term, full-apartment rentals are classified by NYC law enforcement as illegal hotels, and despite current restrictions, there are still thousands of listings advertised on Airbnb's platform that conflict with local laws.
Historic Buildings in Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan
Historic Buildings in Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan Source: Getty Images

Key takeaways

  • An all-time high of 720 illegal hotel complaints were submitted to the Department of Buildings last month, a 152% increase when compared to May 2017.
  • Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea, neighborhoods in Manhattan, have been issued the most illegal hotel violations.
  • Neighborhoods with the highest volume of Airbnb listings, such as Brooklyn's Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant, stand to lose the most as the crackdown continues.

For years now, New York City has been cracking down on short-term Airbnb rentals, voicing concerns about their effects on affordable housing, residents and tourism in the Big Apple. The city's local anti-Airbnb regulations are enforced through New York state's multiple dwelling law (MDL), which prohibits renting your full apartment to anyone for less than 30 days in buildings occupied by three or more families, which applies to the vast majority of housing units in NYC.

These short-term, full-apartment rentals hosted through Airbnb's platform are classified by law enforcement as illegal hotels. Despite current restrictions, there are still thousands of listings advertised on Airbnb that conflict with local laws.

Airbnb rentals in NYC (2015-2018)

Airbnb Rentals in NYC (2015 - 2018)

We looked at Airbnb listings in NYC from 2015 to 2018 to see how the number of available full-apartment rentals has changed over recent years. The plot above shows that the percentage of full-apartment rentals has been steadily declining, while the percentage of private and shared-room listings has been increasing.

The drop in full-apartment rentals, a 7.4% decrease from 19,790 to 18,323 listings from October to November in 2016, comes as a small response to a law signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The anti-Airbnb law makes it illegal to advertise short-term rentals. Hosts or renters who violate this law are subject to a $1,000 fine on their first offense, a $5,000 fine on their second offense and a $7,500 fine on their third offense.

Consumers interested in sharing their homes through Airbnb's platform must thoroughly review and remain up to date with local laws in NYC, building and zoning regulations and their renters or homeowners insurance policies.

Where are most illegal hotel complaints and violations issued?

Most recently, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) has been leading the current crackdown on Airbnb rentals. The team includes 27 officials from the New York Police Department, Department of Buildings, Office of Special Enforcement, Fire Department of New York and other local teams. Hosts and renters sharing their homes through Airbnb can be difficult to pin down, so the agency has been targeting landlords and building owners for buildings racking up high numbers of illegal hotel complaints instead.

Illegal hotel complaints over the last 36 months

Illegal Hotel Complaints Over the Last 36 Months

An all-time high of 720 illegal hotel complaints were submitted to NYC's Department of Buildings in May 2018, a 152% increase when compared to May 2017. Neighborhoods representing the majority of recent complaints are Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea. The number of violations issued for complaints has also increased by 150% over the last 12-month period, compared to the 12 months prior. Overall, Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, Upper West Side, Upper East Side and Williamsburg have accumulated the most violations, with Hell's Kitchen leading by 54 violations.

Where do Airbnb home-sharers stand to be fined the most?

With the crackdown on Airbnb home-sharing getting worse, we also wanted to pinpoint which NYC neighborhoods stand to be fined the most by listing volume alone. The map below shows where the greatest numbers of full-apartment rentals are located. Dark-shaded neighborhoods have a higher volume of full-apartment rental listings, while lighter-shaded neighborhoods have a lower volume.

Williamsburg leads with 1,858 full-apartment rentals listed with Airbnb. In total, 22 illegal hotel violations have already been issued in Williamsburg. Bedford-Stuyvesant, another neighborhood in Brooklyn, has the second-highest number of full-apartment rentals at 1,378, with only five violations issued overall. The East Village in Manhattan has the third-highest number of full-apartment rentals listed on Airbnb at 1,219, but it has not received any illegal hotel complaints or violations yet. You can check out the data in the table below.

Illegal Hotel Complaints
Airbnb Listings
Allerton, Bronx007121
Arden Heights, Staten Island2001193
Arrochar, Staten Island1619107
Arverne, Queens703072
Astoria, Queens921035716
Bath Beach, Brooklyn2408113
Battery Park City, Manhattan1033667
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn7325059
Bay Terrace, Queens604147
Bay Terrace, Staten Island001193
Baychester, Bronx001193
Bayside, Queens1602183
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We used scraped Airbnb data provided by Inside Airbnb to map rental listings in NYC. We only focused on apartment, serviced apartment, loft, townhouse, condominium and house property types with minimum stays of fewer than 30 days. Data on illegal hotel complaints was collected from NYC Open Data.