Short-Term Apartment Rentals in NYC May Be Outlawed

The days of New York City apartment dwellers pocketing a few extra bucks by renting out their pads to strangers for a few days may be coming to an end. A proposed law currently being debated by the New York State legislature would make it illegal to sublet an apartment for less than one month.

The sponsors of bill A10008B hope to crack down on landlords who use apartments as illegal hotel rooms. That practice allegedly results in apartments being used as short-term rentals -- disturbing tenants and denying those apartments to middle-income renters.

The bill passed the Senate last week but still needs to be voted on by the Assembly. It has been discussed for the past three years, as several apartment buildings in New York have begun catering to European tourists who rent the rooms for rates that are well below what a hotel would charge.

Liz Krueger, a sponsor of the bill, said that the law is "aimed at landlords who have improperly converted private units into commercial spaces, sometimes in violation of building codes." And it seems she's not against individuals using their valuable real estate to make a little extra money when they can. "The city is not going to knock on doors," she told The New York Times.

And there are many of those doors in New York City. You can find them listed on Craigslist, as well as travel sites such as AirBnB, where you can scan the more than 3,000 listings to score rental deals (such as a private room in a Brooklyn apartment for $54 a night, or stretch out in a Park Avenue two bedroom for $250 per night).

While Krueger says the city wouldn't be going after individuals who rent their shoebox-size apartments to the occasional visitor from Seattle, the idea that the people down the hall might use the opportunity to call the authorities is enough for many to refrain from renting their places.

Critics of the bill say this is for the benefit of the hotels, which are losing business to less expensive rental options.
One person who commented online to the Times story summed up the point of view of many New Yorkers when he wrote: "One thing is certain: The tourists ... are overwhelmingly budget travelers who prefer the convenience and cost savings of apartments vs. hotels. If this option is taken away, these travelers will ... choose a different city altogether, most likely one which does not put limits on what apartment owners do with their extra space."

Budget Traveler blogger Sean O'Neill took up the cause of travelers as well as apartment-dwellers in a recent post: ""If you can save $150 a night on your visit to New York City, who is harmed?" he asked, and suggested that it might encourage ordinarily law-abiding people to break the law. He was talking about tourists, but he could just as easily have been referring to apartment owners.

Still, maybe the city is serious about its intent to focus exclusively on landlords, and will turn a blind eye to weekend renters. There is a subsection of the law, called "the cat-sitting situation," which would allow tenants to have visitors stay in their apartment to take care of plants or pets while they are away. If the legislators are considerate enough to think of the pets and plants, then maybe they really don't mind if the person taking care of them leaves a little something extra behind.

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