A Greenwich Village woman is facing eviction from her rent-stabilized apartment after an appeals court ruled that she illegally profited off her home via Airbnb.
Linda Lipetz, 70, says she was compelled to rent out her second bedroom in the 39 Fifth Avenue apartment after she was diagnosed with cancer and lost her job in 2010. But NYC housing law prohibits tenants in rent-stabilized apartments from subletting their homes for more than a 10% markup over their rent. Lawyers for Lipetz's landlord, Shari Lynn Goldstein, successfully argued that Lipetz charged well over that limit to her Airbnb guests.
Lipetz's monthly rent was $1,758 a month, which broke down to $57 a day. According to court documents, she charged her Airbnb guests $95 a night for individuals and $128 for couples. Lipetz allegedly rented out the second bedroom for 338 days over the course of 18 months, bringing in $33,592. (She says she stayed in the apartment when she had guests, and cooked for them.) After the landlord and her proxies discovered Lipetz's subletting routine in 2012, they moved to evict her.
Lipetz has been fighting the eviction ever since, and claims that after her landlord told her to knock it off, she complied. She also argued in court papers that she had informed a building manager about her subletting, and was told that it was "not a problem" as long as she provided building staff with a completed visitor notification form for each guest.
Nevertheless, on Thursday Manhattan's Appellate Division ruled 3-2 that she violated the terms of her lease and could be evicted. The majority determined that there was no evidence that Goldstein's agent, Sampson [sic] Management, was informed of the subletting or approved of it.
"In our view, subletting of an apt at an excessive rental rate for 338 days over a year and half... constitutes unlawful profiteering," Judge Peter Tom wrote for the majority. "We are mindful of the fact that defendant's age and health status naturally evoke sympathy. However, it is simply undeniable that… she exploited the governmentally-conferred privilege of her rent-stabilized tenancy to take financial profits unavailable to her landlord."
Yesterday a visibly distraught Lipetz, who has resided in the apartment for four decades, told the Daily News, "I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have that long to be here. I’m going to lose all my medical. If I don’t have an address, I’ll never be able to get anything. I’m going to wind up in a homeless shelter."
Goldstein's lawyer, Howard Grun, told the NY Post, "It puts to rest the whole notion that these transient, short term Airbnb guests are roommates."
Lipetz's lawyer Fred Seeman told the News that Goldstein will now sell the apartment for millions, and predicted that Lipetz will "just be another statistic in the toll of gentrification in the city."
In a statement, an Airbnb spokesperson argued that "regulations should be in place that prevent profiteering off rent stabilized units while allowing New Yorkers to share their own homes to pay their rent or medical bills and age in peace."