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New Hotline Will Let NYers Easily Report Neighbors' Illegal Airbnb Rentals

Dashed Arrow Jake Dobkin / Gothamist

Reporting your neighbor's rowdy Airbnb guests is as easy as dialing 311, but an anti-Airbnb group comprised of local legislators is streamlining the process even further, with a new hotline dedicated solely to complaints about illegal short-term rentals.

As first reported this morning in the Daily News, the ShareBetter coalition—comprised of elected officials like Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, along with a number of tenants' rights groups—enlisted former director of the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement Elan Parra to oversee the new hotline, where New Yorkers are encouraged to file "actionable complaints" against bad actor Airbnb hosts.

It is illegal for hosts to rent out their entire apartments on the platform for short-term stays, and individuals who choose to advertise their illegal rentals on Airbnb are subject to fines, though as of May the mayor's office had handed those fines out to only a few violators. The ShareBetter group hopes their hotline will encourage New Yorkers to bring more of those violators to light.

Though New Yorkers are still able to report on illegal Airbnb rentals using 311, this hotline will convey complaints to the mayor's office directly. "It's just another mechanism, to give people another option," Rosenthal told Gothamist. "This [hotline] is dedicated to the one issue, so it's probably faster than calling 311."

Airbnb, which settled with the city last year over a lawsuit claiming New York violated the federal Communications Decency Act by making online ads for most short-term rentals illegal, has its own online resource through which individuals can file complaints on neighboring Airbnb hosts. A spokesperson for the company, Peter Schottenfels, told Gothamist in a statement that the ShareBetter coalition's hotline merely benefits the hotel industry, which has seen a decline as Airbnb's popularity's increased.

"Airbnb has a neighbors hotline already that we encourage New Yorkers to use if they're concerned about a listing in their area. This hotel-funded hotline, however, is nothing more than another attempt to pit neighbor against neighbor by a shady hotel front group grasping at straws to protect their ability to price gouge," Schottenfels said.

Rosenthal says Airbnb's used this line before. "Airbnb always pushes back on everything," she told Gothamist. "The fact is that every so often they can say, 'Oh look, we've removed all these illegal listings,' but they refuse to. We have to take measures into our own hands."

She added, "They removed affordable housing by leaps and bounds, and this is another way to make sure we don't lose more. Airbnb doesn't care about that. They just care about making money."

For now, interested parties can snitch on their neighbors by dialing 646-979-4117 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. There will also be an after-hours message forwarding service.

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