A state lawmaker took it upon herself to crack down on Airbnb's presence in New York City, launching a crafty sting operation to catch repeat offenders on video.
New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has a problem with Airbnb's booming NYC market, where the commonly-abused apartment sharing site is still wildly popular. According to a release from her office, the sting began by identifying hosts with multiple listings for entire homes and apartments, followed by booking rooms with offending hosts between April 13th and 20th.
NY Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal's Airbnb stingby Gothamist
The sting yielded plenty of examples of renters abusing their properties: In several instances, apartments that were listed had no permanent tenants, meaning they were being operated as illegal hotels. The most prominent violator was a rental company that had no tenants at all, with a rental agent posing as a "host." The above video depicts a renter named Carlo explaining that “Airbnb have a lot of issues with New York, you know, because we are competitors with hotel."
"This is supposed to be residential," he said, adding that anyone who stays in the unit should refer to themselves as "friends from out of town" if approached by inquiring neighbors.
"This undercover investigation exposed that Airbnb is an enabler of the rampant illegal activity and is robbing New York City of precious units of affordable housing," Rosenthal said in a statement. "We were able to identify unlawful hotel operations with just the click of a mouse and a camera. Seeing firsthand how easy Airbnb makes it to illegally rent residential units, it's no surprise why we are losing so much affordable housing."
The city also has plans to add at least 25 staffers to the office investigating illegal hotels. Airbnb did not immediately return a request for comment.