uncovering manhattan’s airbnb scam Our Take

| 06 May 2015 | 11:36

A clutch of state lawmakers has made it their business to make AirBnB miserable in Manhattan.

Led by State Sen. Liz Krueger, the officials have long argued that AirBnB makes the city’s housing crunch worse by effectively taking affordable apartments off the market.

At times, the arguments have been hard to swallow: How is a $400-a-night-apartment in Times Square rented by European tourists going to make it any easier for the rest of us to find a decent place to live?

State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal has finally convinced us. The intrepid Rosenthal -- a newspaper reporter in an earlier life -- took the unusual step of staging her own undercover sting operation last week to prove that AirBnB is scamming New York. Rosenthal, using a hidden camera, documents several cases in Manhattan where apartments clearly are being used as full-time nightly rental properties, in violation of the state law that forbids renting out an apartment for less than 30 days if the tenant isn’t at home.

One man , Carlo, tells Rosenthal not to mention that the apartment is being peddled by AirBnB, lest other residents in the building complain. “If somebody ask you something, never mention in the building Airbnb,” he said. “This is supposed to be residential.”

Rosenthal points out that if the apartment’s owners could get a decent market rent for their units, they would. It’s apartments that are more affordable that are being rented by AirBnB en masse.

“It is illegal, and yet they keep doing it with impunity,” she said. “These are flagrant violations.”

Meantime, AirBnB presses on, arguing that it is in the vanguard of a sharing economy we should all embrace.