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Landlord Files Six-Figure Lawsuit Against Manhattan Woman for Renting Apartment on AirBnb.com

February 29, 2016 Posted in Landlord/Tenant Law

As we have covered previously on this blog, popular sites like AirBnb.com and VRBO.com can bring lucrative seasonal rental income to unit owners or tenants, but can cause gaping holes in terms of safety and security for landlords and permanent residents alike.

In many jurisdictions, including San Francisco and Manhattan, illegal subletting is a municipal issue punishable by fines and penalties, against both the tenant of record and the landlord.  According to allegations cited in a recent case, renting out an apartment on these websites can serve as cause for both a   lawsuit and eviction and loss of housing.

If your condominium association or property complex is dealing with a similar situation involving tenants and residents, do not hesitate to contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. to learn about your options.

Details of Midtown Lawsuit

Beginning in 2013, a self-described life coach rented a $2,095/month apartment in the Midtown area of Manhattan. Her lease specifically prohibited subletting of any kind, and she was similarly prohibited from assigning her tenancy rights to any other individuals during the lease term.

Nonetheless, the woman listed her apartment for rent on AirBnb.com, and a steady stream of renters began to flow in and out of the complex, in violation of not only her lease agreement, but of New York City’s hotel rules.

After receiving several complaints from neighboring residents, building inspectors conducted several unannounced visits to the unit over the next several years, oftentimes resulting in the discovery of unidentified renters with suitcases. As a result, the landlord was hit with massive fines and penalties for violating several of the city’s recently-resurrected “illegal hotel” laws, including:

  • Transient use of property (a $1,000/day fine)
  • Illegal hotel operation
  • Inadequate exits for a hotel
  • Inadequate fire alarms for a hotel

The landlord was slapped with nearly $60,000 in fines and penalties from city officials. The administrative law judge overseeing the matter reminded the landlord that these types of violations are “strict liability” offenses, and thus, even if the landlord is not aware of the illegal rentals, the landlord is still held liable.

In turn, the landlord initiated a $300,000 lawsuit against the tenant. According to neighbors, the woman’s apartment was essentially a revolving door of renters eager to snatch up the short-term living space for $200/night. According to a nearby resident, she may not be the only tenant profiting from the illegal sublet market, as he commented “AirBnb folks are in and out of here all the time.”

Contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. Right Away

If your building is dealing with a difficult or illegal subletting situation, and you would like assistance as to how to manage the tenant(s) in accordance with New York and New Jersey landlord tenant law, contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. in New York City today: (212) 374-9790.

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