Milando: B&Bs are a special breed of NYC hotel
Online room booking site AirBnB recently found itself in hot water when one of its New York City hosts was fined $2,400 for violating building codes. Headlines read, "AirBnB illegal in NYC." For travelers to New York City, such fines could dramatically change the tourism landscape. And they symbolize how the city has become a labyrinth of disparate regulations protecting neither travelers nor small businesses.
Illegal hotels have caused serious problems throughout our great city, and it's right to crack down on establishments that put travelers and tenants at risk. State legislation passed in 2010 allows a special task force from the mayor's office to inspect properties suspected of illegal hotel activity, issue violations and close them down.
But though we were assured by legislators that long-established, registered, taxpaying bed-and-breakfasts would not be targets of the law, many of us have been facing steep fines and possible closure. If we are registered with the city, why are we being treated as illegal?
B&Bs are small businesses whose owners work seven days a week, even holidays. According to a StayNYC analysis, our B&Bs drove more than $4 million into the New York City economy through bookings and taxes. We do not operate illegal hotels; we are B&B owners and proud of it. The B&Bs in our network all exist in small buildings that are exclusively used as bed-and-breakfasts and have less than 10 rooms.
B&Bs are an established part of New York City's tourism industry. The owners love this city, acting as ambassadors to their neighborhoods. Local eateries and other small businesses reap the benefits. Sharing local knowledge with guests is our passion. This sort of personalization is hard to find at larger hotels, which is why small inns and B&Bs are in demand.
Our reputations and the safety of our guests are very important. Tenants are rightly concerned about their neighbors and landlords operating illegal hotels. We support legislation that both keeps tenants safe and preserves affordable housing.
B&Bs are collateral damage in the city's fight against illegal hotels. Our elected officials should exempt B&Bs from the 2010 law and allow these legitimate, taxpaying businesses to stay open.
Vinessa Milando is the owner of Ivy Terrace B&B in midtown Manhattan and the president of StayNYC, a trade association of bed-and-breakfast owners.