Meeting NYPD at our Airbnb

  • Hi Guest, welcome to the help forum. You can get fast answers to your customer service questions here. We have a dedicated team of advocates who are ready to help. Just go to the section that matches your question and ask us!
  • If you've posted a question or issue for our advocates to assist with, please be sure to check back frequently for responses and requests for clarification.
  • Did you know you can get email notifications when something new posts to your favorite forum? It's easy. Just click the "watch" link right next to the "post new thread" button at the top of your favorite forum. The rest is easy. Now you'll never miss another conversation.
  • Want to become an expert user? Drop by the How to use this forum section and all will be revealed. We'll show you how to make the most of your experience.
Oct 21, 2018
2
0
1
53
#1
Thank you for taking the time to read my long tale of woe. I would like you opinion if you think my request to Airbnb is reasonable.
I booked an Airbnb in Manhattan for 4 nights for myself and two sisters and three children aged 18, 18, & 21 yrs. (We stayed in a hotel for the previous few days and booked Airbnb to get a more local feel for NYC). The host was a 'Superhost' and had over 70 full star reviews. A few minutes after returning back to the apartment on our first evening Sept 10th we answered the internal door to see NYC Police and Housing officials - 5 in total. They said there was a complaint from the previous day about the residents of the apartment - I immediately thought of drugs or illegal immigrants but as the conversation went on we knew they were interested in the rental. They quizzed us quite a bit on our booking and cost and the services in the apartment. They took photos from the doorway and went through my correspondence on my phone showing the Airbnb booking etc. We were a bit shocked to say the least, and I thought the host would be informed and somehow or other kick us out as the host had stressed in her emails not to tell anybody we met in the building that we were Airbnb clients. The policemen reassured us that the host wouldn't get notification for probably a month and we were not doing anything illegal and were free to finish our holiday. It was unnerving to think they must have been waiting for us to enter the apartment. Next morning we noticed two notices from NYC Buildings taped to the outer door - they were gone when we got back that evening. Next morning Sept 12th at 07.30 the Air Con and electricity went off, and as we were checking the fuse box by the door we saw a man come up from the basement and push a notice under the door. It was a summons for the owner from NYC Dept of Buildings. We rang and emailed the host but there was no answer. The host had an address across the street but none of the apartments were answered. We checked in at the store where we picked up the keys and they said they didn't know the host. We contacted Airbnb Support and they were most helpful and supportive and concerned for our welfare as we were in a complete panic. There was no lighting in the living areas, the windows couldn't open and our phone batteries died as we were using them for lighting, and of course we had no Wi-Fi. Airbnb sent us listings of other available apartments but the rest of the party flatly refused to entertain using Airbnb. I checked anyway but they were all outside of Manhattan and with only two days left on our holiday I knew we wanted to be near the sights.
Between searching for a cafe with WiFi and trying to book on a phone we eventually got a family member back home to book us a hotel.
We got a full refund immediately for our Airbnb rental ($1,503) and I was refunded for the roaming charges ($61) I incurred as I tried to book the hotel.
I was away for the following two weeks but the support staff emailed me and telephoned me to finalize the refunding issues.
I am very happy with how Airbnb Support handled everything so far but the whole situation was very upsetting; we lost a whole day of our holiday and some bookings we had already paid for; my family are furious that I booked an Airbnb and the panic caused a major row between us all. They were all first time visitors to NYC and I took responsibility for the booking and arrangements. Two of the party wanted to fly home immediately but the cost would have been huge. The cost of our hotel for 2 nights was $1,496 - we shared beds so I don't think we were extravagant. I would like Airbnb to compensate us for the cost of our hotel. If this situation arose nearer home we would have packed up, gone home and chalked it up to experience, but of course being a flight away we had to book a hotel.
Airbnb offered me a $100 coupon but I doubt anyone will use it. Our host rated us on the website on Sept 27th and added a message that they never had power issues before. I think the power was shut off by the NYC Buildings Dept. I didn't rate the host. I notice that the apartment is no longer listed by Airbnb. Airbnb closed the case on Sept 29th after my last phone call with the support representative. I asked about escalating my request for the hotel compensation and he said he couldn't authorize any further compensation. Do you think my request is reasonable ?
 
Jul 27, 2016
1,054
1,255
113
#2
Unfortunately, you booked an illegal rental. Airbnb knew it was illegal, but they booked it anyway, because their entire business model in New York is based on ignoring the law. Pretty much all the full apartment rentals in NYC on Airbnb are against the law.
 
Sep 19, 2015
3,841
5,053
113
48
#3
NYC resident here -- NYC Department of Buildings is not allowed to cut off the power. The person who rented the apartment was likely violating the law on short term rentals -- depending on the address.

Police usually do not get involved in Air BNB issues unless there is thought of criminal activity -- violating the short term rental law is a civil penalty. OSE, maybe Sheriff, but NYPD? A neighbor may have claimed drugs or something to get the police to come.

Can you tell me what the address was? Or send it in a PM

NYC Buidings Department cannot shut off power for an Air BNB issue. Electricity is an essential service. DOB can only shut it off for violations that are safety related, such as illegal work done. Even people fighting eviction lawsuits over AirBNB issues keep their power. DOB could face massive lawsuits for that tactic.

You got all the payment refunded from AirBNB plus roaming costs --. I am not sure if it reasonable to get the hotel refunded as you will have essentially stayed for free.
 
Sep 19, 2015
3,841
5,053
113
48
#4
Unfortunately, you booked an illegal rental. Airbnb knew it was illegal, but they booked it anyway, because their entire business model in New York is based on ignoring the law. Pretty much all the full apartment rentals in NYC on Airbnb are against the law.
The highly restrictive laws came after Air BNB was established. There are some exceptions-- some larger mixed use buildings are not class A buildings -- so there can be someone legally running an AirBNB business in a building where there are long term tenants -- but the estimates are that over 50 percent of the ads for short term entire apartment are for illegal short term rentals.

Air BNB is a bit of a gamble, especially in high rent cities like New York.

You ended up spending less for the 4 days than anticipated. Yes it was a hassle, but Air BNB is a risk. There are also some hideous budget hotels in Manhattan that are allowed to continue, but that is another issue.
 
Likes: jsn55

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,218
14,814
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#5
Rentals under 30 days are illegal in NYC. And I can understand the other tenants in the building reporting it. Airbnb knows these are illegal in NYC and continues to operate hoping they will eventually win out.

Weren’t you suspicious when the host told you not to tell anyone you were Airbnb clients? Red flag!

You were given a refund of what you paid Airbnb. You would have had to stay in a hotel if you didn’t illegally rent, so not sure that you have a case for Airbnb to remit anymore.

If you want to see if you can get anything else- Google stories about Airbnb knowing these rentals are illegal and send it to them. They know this and shouldn’t be allowing these rentals at all. We have company contacts you can use to contacts the Executives.
 
Feb 3, 2017
122
160
43
45
#6
Long time renters/owners here in NYC are reporting illegal rentals more often now than they did in the past - took a lot of hard work but we are making that happen. Someone was, apparently, alerted to what this "super host" was up to and since it was such a dramatic response/confrontation, maybe it had been an ongoing issue reported numerous times, who knows.

DOB wouldn't turn off electricity as noted above; it may well have been the landlord (doing it legally or not) or owner.

A "summons" from DOB to the "owner" pushed under the door is of interest as well - "owner" of the building? Of the "apartment"? Curious.

First, getting DOB to do anything quickly is a laugh (sorry, but it is, I suffer dealing with them routinely in my work) so, seems to me, something was on-going here and may have to do with more than an illegal vacation rental.

Many other cities are also grappling with this issue of vacation rentals - so, be aware if considering booking an apartment elsewhere, check current laws about it - Paris, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Monica, Miami Beach, Los Angeles, London, Berlin (just few of the cities around the world) - laws are different in each and important to scope out the specifics and if somewhere doesn't now have restrictions or is not illegal, things are fluid so best to keep an eye

It is not just Airbnb - it is any platform/whatever renting illegal vacation rentals. Airbnb just became the poster child, for lack of a better name, for the issue.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,703
7,521
113
San Francisco
#7
I'm sure your travelling companions are very upset with all this. I don't think you knew that AirBB is a problem in Manhattan. Send AirBB a concise, polite request for the additional compensation you wish. Good luck, and please let us know the outcome.

ADVOCATE ADVICE FOR OUR OTHER READERS
If an AirBB host asks you to hide the fact that you are there renting through AirBB, this is your notice that you are occupying an illegal AirBB rental. AirBB is a great theory and works much of the time, but it's not as easy as dealing with a hotel. Being a happy customer of AirBB is a matter of how much risk you're willing to take on.
 
Likes: Nancy and ADM
Sep 19, 2015
3,841
5,053
113
48
#8
NYC is complicated; it is not just individual lease holders that have been fined for violating the short term rental laws but also major landlords who own a rental building— these building owners were not zoned for short term rentals but did it anyway.

Neither the Dept of Buildings nor the landlord can legally cut electricity for a lease violation— that opens them up to serious liability and is against the law. I doubt the DOB would open themselves to the liability but a ruthless landlord may cut as harassment.

Even when a tenant/owner is cited by the DOB for illegal short term rental there is still the legal process that has to be followed, and that includes dealing with fines and possible eviction. The eviction process is not fast.

I do think that AirBNB should alert short term entire apartment seekers about the laws in NYC so the renters realize the risk and make an informed decision.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,218
14,814
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#9
Airbnb would never post anything about short term rentals being illegal- that puts the onus on them for allowing illegal rentals. That’s why they refunded the OPs money so fast.

I also personally think that the lights being turned off were more likely due to non payment and not due to it being an illegal rental.

It’s also possible the person who rented the apartment might not even be the owner of the rental. I hope the OP told the police how they had to put co up the keys in a store. Lots of suspicious things about this story. Not by the OP- by whoever rented to them.

To the OP- I hope you left appropriate feedback about the rental so you warn others. Do you still see the rental offered?
 
Feb 3, 2017
122
160
43
45
#10
NYC is complicated; it is not just individual lease holders that have been fined for violating the short term rental laws but also major landlords who own a rental building— these building owners were not zoned for short term rentals but did it anyway.

Neither the Dept of Buildings nor the landlord can legally cut electricity for a lease violation— that opens them up to serious liability and is against the law. I doubt the DOB would open themselves to the liability but a ruthless landlord may cut as harassment.

Even when a tenant/owner is cited by the DOB for illegal short term rental there is still the legal process that has to be followed, and that includes dealing with fines and possible eviction. The eviction process is not fast.

I do think that AirBNB should alert short term entire apartment seekers about the laws in NYC so the renters realize the risk and make an informed decision.
I agree Airbnb (VRBO, etc) should all alert such vacation renters but they won't; they continue to fight here, every step of the way.

Many hosts have been removed, many have removed themselves as the fines for just posting a listing (not even renting it) are very high. These companies are in it for the money and they ignore the laws everywhere there is any sort of restriction. The money Airbnb, in particular, has spent here in NY is astronomical in efforts to convince the public to persuade their representatives about the benefits of the "sharing economy" -

They are exhausting. Enforcement is challenging as the budget (state or city) simply doesn't exist to pursue all of this as would be ideal to bring back units on the market for long-term renters.

Time will tell. Most important thing people can do in whatever platform is to alert people to the laws.

We have found many people, even when well aware of the law, don't care and rent one of these places anyway because their budget cannot withstand NYC hotel prices and they have absorbed the concept of "living like a local" (as though it is real concept). These folks choose, knowingly, to take the risk and most will not have a problem but those that do, the impact is significant in ruining holidays.
 
Oct 21, 2018
2
0
1
53
#11
Thank you all for your reply's.
I checked and double checked before booking including Google maps of the street etc.but I knew nothing about legal v. illegal listings on Airbnb. I'm afraid the 'warning' from the host about the neighbors wasn't a red flag as I am aware most cities want to curb accommodation use by Airbnb. My own neighbors have Airbnbers coming and going but I can imagine the frustration if I was sharing a building. Airbnb is a risk but I have stayed many times in hotels in NYC and wanted something different and cheaper - and I certainly got that.
I didn't post a review of the host as I didn't want to get into a spat and hear a tons of excuses and anyway the listing appears to be gone from the site now. But the host rated us so maybe it will be relisted. I should warn others.
Yes the visitors definitely were the police. I think now that the 'host' turned off the power as that 'summons' was probably the one stuck to the outer door which disappeared during the day. It was a summons to appear in court and underlined in red on the bottom was 'cease illegal occupancy'.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,207
1,147
113
Maui Hawaii
#12
Thank you all for your reply's.
I checked and double checked before booking including Google maps of the street etc.but I knew nothing about legal v. illegal listings on Airbnb. I'm afraid the 'warning' from the host about the neighbors wasn't a red flag as I am aware most cities want to curb accommodation use by Airbnb. My own neighbors have Airbnbers coming and going but I can imagine the frustration if I was sharing a building. Airbnb is a risk but I have stayed many times in hotels in NYC and wanted something different and cheaper - and I certainly got that.
I didn't post a review of the host as I didn't want to get into a spat and hear a tons of excuses and anyway the listing appears to be gone from the site now. But the host rated us so maybe it will be relisted. I should warn others.
Yes the visitors definitely were the police. I think now that the 'host' turned off the power as that 'summons' was probably the one stuck to the outer door which disappeared during the day. It was a summons to appear in court and underlined in red on the bottom was 'cease illegal occupancy'.
Many Airbnb listings around the world are illegal. AirBnb knows this but they make so much money off the illegal rentals they have zero incentive to stop the practice. Most of the illegal rentals go ahead without problems since there are very few resources from cities to police the problem. The rental you had must have raised some very high profile issues to have been dealt with the way you encountered. AirBnb will happily refund the ones that are caught because those are probably less than 1% of the illegal rentals.

Paris has recently gotten serious about the problem: https://www.independent.co.uk/trave...mit-bookings-stay-nights-latest-a8054771.html
New York has been grappling with the problem for years and may now be devoting resources to it.
 
Feb 3, 2017
122
160
43
45
#13
Seems perhaps with that notice about "illegal occupancy" that maybe the "host" was supposed to have vacated the apartment but hadn't done so - probably will remain a mystery

In any case, there are details missing that neither the LW or us will probably ever know.

And, yes, NY is now devoting more resources to the problem given what has evolved from this "sharing" economy rhetoric re: long-term housing availability. But, it will still not be enough to put out the fire, so to speak. People seem addicted to the concept, legal or not and roll the dice to save some money.

Like rentals and prices of buying condos/co-opts here, the hotel prices too are very high for much of the year so it makes for a ripe environment for people to decide to take the risk of renting one of these places, finding all sorts of reasons/excuses for their decision.

And, for those who genuinely don't know most is illegal (here and elsewhere) - they, hopefully, will begin to be more diligent in research when booking accommodations - it is all so easy to find online.