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Airbnb Brooklyn, NYC safety claim

Jan 16, 2020
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Hi there,
Myself and two of my friends stayed with a Airbnb host in Brooklyn, NYC for 1/6 nights booked in October of 2019 while studying on exchange. we have had some issues with our Airbnb host.
We were staying in our accommodation with him and felt extremely uncomfortable. This was because of initial very loud banging noises coming from his room on our first evening, followed by overhearing a phone call in which he discussed the acquisition of illicit drugs. Then the next morning he displayed erratic behaviour. One of my friends was feeling rather unwell and as were on tight student budgets and considering the host was a doctor thought best to ask here before going into a clinic. Throughout the course of diagnosing her with quite a harsh illness he was not aware of the date and time and was scribbling on paper. Furthermore, he was pacing around the apartment and making more loud noises in his room. This led us to believe he was under the influence of some kind of drug. We felt unsafe and uncomfortable as a result and did not wish to be in an environment in which there were we were at risk and with possibility of illicit drugs. He then prescribed her with a strong antibiotic, after being wary of the diagnosis to begin with and the unreadable writing on the script, my friend did not fill the script and recovered only a couple of days later with paracetamol alone.
Later in the morning, after feeling unsafe to stay in the apartment we headed out to contact Airbnb support . we were unable to get any help as we had not sent through a request with the host. With all our belongings still in his apartment we were reluctant to cancel before moving our stuff at risk of becoming endangered. We then headed back to the apartment and rushed through grabbing everything before moving into a hostel across in NYC. We then cancelled the Airbnb and through multiple interactions were told that we didn’t have enough evidence. We were told also that we should’ve contacted Airbnb beforehand.... which we did... but as mentioned were sent back.
I can see how this can be seen however I am not sure what other evidence we could provide in the context of the situation. We felt at risk of our safety in the company of an intoxicated person and to think that filming someone in this state was a smart and reasonable idea is beyond me.

We have been in contact with Airbnb ever since but with no adequate resolution. As we were only in the apartment for 1 out of the 6 nights booked we have lost a great amount of money (approx. $1110 USD) which impacted our study overseas greatly, however more so was the loss of confidence in the Airbnb company and system.

We hope someone can help

thank you
 
May 7, 2019
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What an awful situation. I too would have departed the premises just as fast as feasible, irrespective of cost. Safety is of course paramount.

I know this is not what you will want to hear, but I believe your recourse with Airbnb will be quite limited. Airbnb has a Resolution Center that is easily contacted, through the app and on its website, 24 hours a day. As an experienced Airbnb user myself, I have contacted the Resolution Center on several occasions — in real time, as issues with my stay arose. Each time, my issues were satisfactorily addressed.

Had you contacted the Resolution Center prior to cancelling, I believe you’d be on firmer ground here in seeking a refund. But as you did not do that, I am not optimistic that you will obtain a refund or any kind of compensation.

My suggestion: Be thankful that you were able to exit the accommodations safely and without incident. Learn from this episode and move on.
 
Jan 16, 2020
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What an awful situation. I too would have departed the premises just as fast as feasible, irrespective of cost. Safety is of course paramount.

I know this is not what you will want to hear, but I believe your recourse with Airbnb will be quite limited. Airbnb has a Resolution Center that is easily contacted, through the app and on its website, 24 hours a day. As an experienced Airbnb user myself, I have contacted the Resolution Center on several occasions — in real time, as issues with my stay arose. Each time, my issues were satisfactorily addressed.

Had you contacted the Resolution Center prior to cancelling, I believe you’d be on firmer ground here in seeking a refund. But as you did not do that, I am not optimistic that you will obtain a refund or any kind of compensation.

My suggestion: Be thankful that you were able to exit the accommodations safely and without incident. Learn from this episode and move on.
Thank you for your reply James, your help is appreciated.
what confuses me however is that we tried contacting Airbnb before cancelling the booking but they said they were unable to give us any help or information as would need to contact the host and suggested we cancel first. As we had left our belongings there at this stage we wanted to get out before coming in possible contact with the unsafe situation. Then following the cancellation we were then told the same thing of contacting before cancellation. Which means they backflipped on what they told us earlier?
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
21,047
20,864
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
If you read Airbnb’s guarantee- you must contact them within 24 of arrival if there is a problem. If you felt unsafe, you needed to call the police to escort you into the place to get your things. Then you would have had a police report to go back to Airbnb with.

If you didn’t contact Airbnb within that 24 hours they won’t do anything after that fact. What was the hosts cancellation policy? You can’t cancel a reservation after the fact and that is probably why they won’t refund you . What were the reviews like?

We have contacts for Airbnb that you can use but I don’t see a successful outcome for you.

This is the problem with Airbnb - there is no vetting of homes OR the owners for safety or legality. And many rentals in NYC are illegal- NYC doesn’t permit rentals of less then 30 days in certain apartment buildings, although with the owner being there this probably wouldn’t fall into that category. Please post an appropriate review so you can warn others.
 
Feb 3, 2017
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Even with the owner there, it likely is an illegal rental as all people who either own or rent an apartment/co-op/condo have rules that prohibit them doing this regardless of whether the NYS law allows it or not.

You can enter the address into the Department of Buildings website to learn of its status (more than 4 units, stand alone home (very very rare), etc.) It's not really easy to discern what all the language means when doing this search but it is something you might consider checking -

If you do want to check, you can search the property at http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/bispi00.jsp#property - choose the section "search by property" - when it comes up, click on the Certificate of Occupancy which will describe type of building.

I know this not something many will not want to do but I just wanted to provide the information in case you want the option of checking the legality of it.

As to receiving back your monies, I have my doubts but IF the rental is illegal and you let airbnb know that, it MAY (certainly no guarantee) provide you back some refund.

Airbnb has been locked in a very heated, contentious battle here in NYC for years and reports to them about illegal listings on their website and subsequent rentals have produced some situations where they have allowed cancelations or refunds upon being provided evidence the listing is illegal - they then are supposed to remove that listing and the host can be fined.

These stories continue to upset me as we have had so many disturbing such situations with these rentals.

In the future, I would suggest you check the vacation rental laws of any city in which you consider renting such a place. Cities worldwide have either passed laws restricting such rentals or are working to do so.
 
May 7, 2019
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If the rental is illegal you can also report it to NYC and let Airbnb know you are doing so. That may push them to a refund.
Yes: This is our OP’s recourse avenue.
Unfortunately, I believe Airbnb’s Resolution Center is actually a call center in either the Philippines or India. I’ve had good success with them. But, as with all things in life, the results may vary depending on who answers the chat or phone.
 
  • Like
Reactions: VoR61
Jan 16, 2020
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Thank you everyone for your help!
as we had heard of the legal issues surrounding Airbnb’s in NYC we were reluctant to involve the police at the time. Perhaps regretful of that decision at this stage. Airbnb refuse to take our side claiming not enough evidence on our behalf. As we didn’t want to endanger ourselves at the time by filming someone under the influence not knowing what there reaction would be. We had taken photos of what we thought was appropriate but apparently not enough. So now we have lost a lot of money, a l lost a lot of respect for Airbnb and a lost a lot of love for NYC. We will not be using Airbnb after this incident for the lack of security and protection for the guest. It is a sad experience but certainly one for learning
 
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Reactions: Skippy
Sep 9, 2018
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If you read Airbnb’s guarantee- you must contact them within 24 of arrival if there is a problem. If you felt unsafe, you needed to call the police to escort you into the place to get your things. Then you would have had a police report to go back to Airbnb with.

If you didn’t contact Airbnb within that 24 hours they won’t do anything after that fact. What was the hosts cancellation policy? You can’t cancel a reservation after the fact and that is probably why they won’t refund you . What were the reviews like?

We have contacts for Airbnb that you can use but I don’t see a successful outcome for you.

This is the problem with Airbnb - there is no vetting of homes OR the owners for safety or legality. And many rentals in NYC are illegal- NYC doesn’t permit rentals of less then 30 days in certain apartment buildings, although with the owner being there this probably wouldn’t fall into that category. Please post an appropriate review so you can warn others.

Stupid question: Do you have to contact them within 24 hours of the arrival or within 24 hours of the problem?

If a problem arises after that initial 24 hours, does that mean Airbnb won't help you?
 
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Sep 6, 2015
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My daughter lives in NYC (in an apartment that is the size of a closet and a very small bedroom), and her rental contract says she can be evicted for renting rooms through Air B&B and other such groups. I don’t know what NY law is, but this has been the case in the last 2-3 apartments she has lived in.
 
Feb 3, 2017
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The NY law is clear but a lot of people keep giving the impression that if someone rents out a room in their apartment or rents the apartment for more than 30 days that it is legit; it's not.

As Tricia K. says above, there are the provisions in the apartment leases that the lessee is prohibited from doing either of these two types of renting - it is also in nearly every condo and co-op agreements. In fact, we have yet seen a condo or co-op agreement that allows these sorts of rentals

We have gotten into the law here (NY) that if anyone even just lists an illegal rental on airbnb, vrbo, or any other website - the fines are enormous - just for listing it. That's how out of control and damaging this practice has become here (and, other cities are approaching how to best restrict these sort of rentals as well).
 
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Jan 23, 2020
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very loud banging noises coming from his room […] discussed the acquisition of illicit drugs. […] displayed erratic behaviour. […] the host was a doctor […], he was pacing around the apartment and making more loud noises in his room. This led us to believe he was under the influence of some kind of drug
Strangely enough, every part of your description sounds exactly like the Airbnb host tenant in my Brooklyn building who has caused so many disturbances for us - I had to make an account to reply. I have been trying to do something about the unit for over a year, but LL says his hands are tied without really specific safety issues since the tenant stays in the apartment at the same time as his rentals; it's not explicitly against the terms of the lease. As far as I know he will just continue renewing the lease despite the constant Airbnb rentals, noise, probably drug use, occasional police visits, etc...

Can I PM you to confirm the street name of the rental? (Seems I might be restricted from doing so as a new member, as I'm getting an error message. Also want to check that is OK per this forum's rules). If so, I would greatly appreciate hearing any other details that might help, or if you push the matter with Airbnb/the city regarding the rental's legality and receive a response. Regardless, I'm sorry you had this terrible experience and hope some of the advice in previous replies is helpful.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
21,047
20,864
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
Strangely enough, every part of your description sounds exactly like the Airbnb host tenant in my Brooklyn building who has caused so many disturbances for us - I had to make an account to reply. I have been trying to do something about the unit for over a year, but LL says his hands are tied without really specific safety issues since the tenant stays in the apartment at the same time as his rentals; it's not explicitly against the terms of the lease. As far as I know he will just continue renewing the lease despite the constant Airbnb rentals, noise, probably drug use, occasional police visits, etc...

Can I PM you to confirm the street name of the rental? (Seems I might be restricted from doing so as a new member, as I'm getting an error message. Also want to check that is OK per this forum's rules). If so, I would greatly appreciate hearing any other details that might help, or if you push the matter with Airbnb/the city regarding the rental's legality and receive a response. Regardless, I'm sorry you had this terrible experience and hope some of the advice in previous replies is helpful.
Can’t you report this to NYC?
 
Jan 23, 2020
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My understanding is because he is only renting a room and (as far as I can tell) is present during stays, that it falls on the legal side of the city's Airbnb laws for a building like ours. I would love to be wrong, though!
 
Sep 19, 2015
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The NY law is clear but a lot of people keep giving the impression that if someone rents out a room in their apartment or rents the apartment for more than 30 days that it is legit; it's not.

As Tricia K. says above, there are the provisions in the apartment leases that the lessee is prohibited from doing either of these two types of renting - it is also in nearly every condo and co-op agreements. In fact, we have yet seen a condo or co-op agreement that allows these sorts of rentals

We have gotten into the law here (NY) that if anyone even just lists an illegal rental on airbnb, vrbo, or any other website - the fines are enormous - just for listing it. That's how out of control and damaging this practice has become here (and, other cities are approaching how to best restrict these sort of rentals as well).
The law is a little more nuanced and complicated. Condos often limit the time of subleases — coops are much more rigid.

but there are many smaller buildings with only two units — especially Queens — but then the issue is of volume — transient housing— and COA.

I know someone who owns a townhouse in Manhattan (bought during a downturn)— it has a separate unit on ground floor ( 2 units all together). They only occasionally rent out the ground floor unit.
They used to do long term —ie not vacation rental leases. They stopped that when it took over
8 months to evict someone for non payment.

There are actually some Airbnb listings for individual short term apartments that are legit as they are in mixed use buildings that are categorised as transient hotels — often in midtown in the 30s.

I have never tried Airbnb — but I do understand why tourists are drawn to it in NYC. From “destination fees” at hotels, the various hotel room taxes,

But there are absolutely ways to legally rent a an apartment for more than 30 days but less than 60 — friends did that after selling their place and having to wait —

And there are legal ways to rent a room for less than 30 days with owner present —. The devil is in the details. From the Office do Special Enforcement:

  • You may have up to two paying guests staying in your household for fewer than 30 days, only if every guest has free and unobstructed access to every room, and each exit within the apartment.

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/specialenforcement/stay-in-the-know/information-for-hosts.page
 
Feb 3, 2017
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As I wrote - "it is also in nearly every condo and co-op agreements" - "nearly" as there are some exceptions, of course.

We just have never been presented with any such agreements that allow such rentals in any way. I'm sure there are some out there.

And, if someone is leasing an apartment here - for the most part, they are not allowed to do what the Office of Special Enforcement allows if their lease prohibits it, as does mine.

The devil is in the details but, overall, it takes some digging to discern the legitimacy of each such listing and many travelers are not doing that sort of research because many assume it is legal and, some others, don't care if it is legal or not as long as it is cheap.