The de Blasio Administration has settled lawsuits against two Manhattan landlords accused of operating illegal Airbnbs, the Mayor’s Office announced Wednesday, with a total settlement value of over $1.2 million.
The suits accused the landlords of illegally converting permanent housing into short-term rentals in violation of city law.
The suits were led by the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, which is tasked with cracking down on “harmful illegal and unregulated industries” such as the short-term rental market.
“Today’s settlements send a clear message that illegal hotels will not be tolerated in our city and those who operate them will be punished,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement. “I’m proud that the Council voted to strengthen the Office of Special Enforcement to make it easier to find lawbreakers. Illegal hotels are a nuisance in our communities and take away affordable housing at a time when we need it desperately. I thank the Office of Special Enforcement for their work on this issue, as well as the de Blasio Administration and my colleagues at the Council for their steadfast commitment to putting these illegal hotels out of businesses.”
City and state law strictly regulates landlords’ ability to use platforms like Airbnb to rent out permanent housing stock on a short-term basis for profit. Landlords cannot rent out apartments for fewer than 30 consecutive days unless the host is staying in the apartment with the guest over that time period.
New York contends that this is necessary to prevent apartments, including rent-stabilized and other affordable units, from being quietly taken off the rental market and turned into de facto hotel rooms, decreasing the city’s housing stock while allowing landlords to reap greater profits.
The larger settlement was with Big Apple Management, which will have to fork over $700,000 to the city to resolve the suit, filed in 2018, accusing the company and its owner, Maxine Gilbert, of permitting 90 units in seven buildings on West 47th Street in Hell’s Kitchen to be advertised and rented on Airbnb.
Separately, Big Apple is accused of permitting short-term rentals in 33 other apartments on Airbnb in buildings not included in the lawsuit.
The other settlement was against Rose King, who reached a $516,000 deal with the city to settle a 2017 suit related to her renting out at least a dozen units in three Lower East Side buildings on Airbnb. King used 34 separate accounts to rent out the units.
Gilbert had denied knowing that the units were being rented out, saying instead that it was being done by “professional operators,” while King did not deny renting out the units but claimed she did not know the activity was illegal, according to The Real Deal.
The city also announced a separate, $10,000 settlement with SoHo Lofts NYC, which was one of the defendants in a similar suit involving units in four East Village buildings. The buildings’ owner, 219 Av A NYC, displaced permanent residents through “a variety of illegal uses,” including allowing SoHo lofts to advertise and rent out units as “co-living” spaces.