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NYC May Dramatically Increase Fines For Those Who Abuse Airbnb

Ever since Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released his damning report on Airbnb last fall, which found that 72% of all Airbnb transactions between 2010 and June 2014 violated state law, City Council members have been intensifying their efforts to discourage landlords from using the website to run lucrative pseudo-hotels.

Here's a choice excerpt from the 2014 report, for context: "Units booked on Airbnb as private short-term rentals for half the year or more—and thereby largely removed from long-term housing—generated 38 percent of all fees Airbnb received in 2013 in connection with the Reviewed Transactions."

Under the newly-proposed legislation, fines for illegal hotels in New York City, which currently hover between $1,600 and $25,000 (plus at least $1,000 a day for up to 45 days of non-compliance), would leap to a minimum of $10,000, and maximum of $50,000, plus a $2,000 civil penalty for each additional day.

An accompanying piece of legislation, also new, calls for a mandatory report, presented regularly to the city council, on the total number of illegal hotel complaints filed, as well as violations issued, and penalties collected.

As it now stands, the Office of Special Enforcement responds to each complaint of an illegal hotel with a team of investigators from the DOB, the FDNY, and the Department of Finance. According to a council press release, "Violations issued by these investigators are filed under their respective departments... without identifying that the violation was issued under OSE or at an illegal hotel."

"Right now hundreds of residents in Washington Heights, Harlem and Crown Heights are being pressured by their landlords to vacate in order to make room for these profitable illegal hotels," said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez in a statement. "We don't need private companies coming in, operating illegally and further pressuring our communities to leave."

Airbnb global public policy head David Hantman told the Daily News, "Much of our hosting community is being unfairly tagged with this bad actor paint." He maintains that 90% of Airbnb hosts only list one unit for a few days per year.

Earlier this spring, the city council called for an additional 25 Special Enforcement staffers to look into illegal hotels.

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