A Nolita landlord who attempted to evict a tenant on the basis that she's illegally subletting her rent-stabilized apartment to tourists has lost the battle for now, thanks to a peculiar quirk of the city's Housing Court.
Ken Podziba has been desperately trying to boot tenant Amy Parness from an apartment at 250 Elizabeth Street after he discovered that she's converted her $1,400 per month digs into a luxury hotel room, which she advertises on websites like Airbnb and Roomorama for $220 a night. Podziba has already spent thousands on private investigators attempting to nail Parness, who allegedly lives in New Jersey and has raked in some half a million dollars by exploiting her coveted gem of a rent-stabilized apartment.
But the battle will have to rage on. Housing Court will only allow a plaintiff to file one lawsuit against a given defendant at a time, and in 2011, Podziba submitted a claim over unauthorized alterations made to the space—alterations he suspects were made to better accommodate Parness's guests, like a wet bar, track lighting and even a washing machine. Since that action is as yet unresolved, Podziba is unable to pursue legal action against her illicit hotel activities.
"It's so frustrating," he said, adding that on Monday, the presiding judge simply asked Parness not to rent out her apartment again.
But Podziba refuses to give up yet, and plans to bring a suit against Parness through state supreme court presently. It's not about the money, he said—he plans to give any of the recouped funds to an New York City-based charity. But with housing prices soaring, Podziba maintains that tenants lucky enough to score a sweet deal on a rent-controlled apartment shouldn't exploit the system. He fears that without proper enforcement, the practice will become more rampant than it already is.
"The financial incentives are so great—who wouldn't do that?," he said.
Additionally, the city alleges that such apartment rentals pose a hazard to the public, in that tenants in surrounding units are subject to hosts of strangers filing in and out of buildings, as well as the fact that apartments are not required to comply with the same fire prevention standards as hotels. (How comforting.) According to Crains, a city hall official recently met with executives from Airbnb to request that the company work with the city on a new business model that better suits the city's multiple dwelling law. So far, the conversations have led nowhere.