Should I bust the host of an illegal AirBnB unit, for cash?
January 3, 2018 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Had an awful experience in the middle of a cat-and-mouse situation regarding an illegal AirBnB. Am thinking of blowing the whistle on the host in exchange for a reward. Please advise.

YANAL, YANML.

I have rented AirBnB accommodations several times, in many places across the USA. Recently my kids and I visited New York City and booked an apartment through AirBnB for two days. As we were arriving in town, the host told me through text (directly to my phone, rather than through the AirBnB messaging app) that I should be extremely discreet and not talk to anyone in the building.

When I arrived at the apartment, he was charming but extremely furtive. He asked me to not tell anyone I was renting, and instead say I was a family friend. The instructional information about the unit and neighborhood were to be kept in a desk drawer, not out and about. It was definitely hinky, but I figured, eh, two days.

Later that night there was a knock on the door. A different man said there was a maintenance emergency and he needed to be in the apartment. He asked me where the tenant was and my relationship with him. Not having any idea whether this was a legit issue or not, I put him off and contacted the host, who had no idea about the repair issue.

The next morning the repairman was back, plus two other workmen and a large tool box, and the property manager as well. They didn't take "no" for an answer and came in to do a fairly short repair. While in the apartment, the property manager asked me if I'd paid money to stay there. She reassured me that, if I had, I had done nothing wrong, but that it was illegal to do so in this building, which is "rental only". I demurred. She gave me her card and said, if indeed I had paid for the room, she would give me double what I paid if I gave her evidence of doing so.

This was far past my limit of tolerance for hassle. I canceled the AirBnB rental, got a room at a cheap hotel for the second night, moved my kids over there. The AirBnB host gave me a full refund. Upon doing a bit of research, I learned that, indeed, the vast majority of AirBnBs in NYC are illegal.

This was a seriously shitty experience, both for me and my kids as humans who needed a place to stay, and as a parent who tries to teach her kids not to fuck other human beings over. I am angry at the host for putting me in this position and really fucking up a rare vacation opportunity for my kids and me. I understand that the repair was not his fault (though was it ginned up to get into the apartment? I have no clue.) I am considering taking the property manager up on her offer, as I could certainly use the money.

Has anyone busted an AirBnB host like this? Am I putting myself at legal risk for unwittingly participating? I know YANML. The host has my phone number, which I could easily block. Not sure about my full name; does AirBnB give those to hosts? Is there a way I could do this that ensures he won't know it was me?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (53 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I vote no. You aren't going to just get paid and get to forget about this; you are likely going to end up getting subpoenaed to testify in court.
posted by thelonius at 8:48 AM on January 3, 2018 [16 favorites]


You have a number of questions here. Yes, the AirBnB host has your full name. I can't think of a way to do this and ensure the host doesn't know it was you, since you're probably the guest who had the most hassle recently.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:49 AM on January 3, 2018


What's your goal here? You got the money back, you had another place to stay. You can certainly leave bad feedback and you could contact airbnb customer service.

Is your bigger goal to ensure that no one else experiences this? If so, bad feedback and airbnb customer service will help.
Is your bigger goal to punish this person more? If so, contact the property manager. But do you really want to do that? Did this person do something so terrible that you want them to experience more pain?

Whatever you do next, it is unlikely that the person is going to come after you. But the more severe action you take next, the more likely it is that this person will seek revenge.

If it were me, I'd call airbnb customer service, get their take on it, and leave bad feedback along the lines of "Everything was fine [apartment details], but host was insistent that we do not tell people we were airbnb, to the point of asking us to lie and say we were a close family friend. To my surprise, we did in fact need to do this when Handypeople showed up twice and demanding to know who we were, directly asking us if we were with airbnb. This made me uncomfortable, in particular that my young children also had to participate in this lie and see their parent lying. No one should be asked to do this for an airbnb. We cancelled the stay and the host fully refunded us, which I appreciate, but I would not want to be in that situation again and I wanted to share this feedback with the broader community, in case you too are uncomfortable with having to lie."
posted by k8t at 8:50 AM on January 3, 2018 [53 favorites]


For the record - while your host might be in violation of their lease, their airbnb was not necessarily illegal (see "legal restrictions for other rentals" here) because they were also living in the apartment. I mean, it's unlikely that they had all their tax and licensing ducks in a row, but how many airbnbs' are?
posted by mosst at 8:54 AM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also, on a moral level, likely getting a guy evicted for a low-level-shady (but honestly, pretty common in the airbnb market) thing is not exactly "teach[ing your] kids not to fuck other human beings over." Other people have other moral codes, but that is mine.

This is the decision I've made for my own purposes, too. My next-door neighbors are definitely airbnbs in violation of the condo agreement but I've decided that's between the unit owners and the management and honestly it doesn't hurt me any. If they were disruptive to my use of my unit, that'd be another story, but they never have been.
posted by mosst at 8:59 AM on January 3, 2018 [34 favorites]


You got a full refund and a free night's stay -- that is your compensation for the (not insignificant!) inconvenience. (I am at this very moment in an airbnb where the host said the same thing, and like...I agree it's not ideal, and I wouldn't recommend this place to others as a result, but also airbnb is always a crapshoot and that is why it's cheaper than a hotel.)

Did it seem like the guy usually lives in that apartment? If so, it would be absolutely wrong to take the property manager up on her offer. You'd be getting someone evicted from their home and that is not okay. If it seems like he rents a billion apartments just to airbnb them, well, that's a whole other morally complicated thing but do you really want to involve yourself in it?

If it were me, I'd leave bad feedback and call it a day.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:59 AM on January 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'm not your lawyer. You will not be at legal risk. The tenant is not at meaningful legal risk in the sense of criminal liability.

However, if the manager is offering a significant bounty to rat him out, the apartment may well be rent-stabilized. Landlords love nothing better than an excuse to evict a rent-stabilized tenant. You will have to consider the possibilities, and to do that, you will have to consider something else. To wit:

Upon doing a bit of research, I learned that, indeed, the vast majority of AirBnBs in NYC are illegal.

This was a seriously shitty experience, both for me and my kids as humans who needed a place to stay, and as a parent who tries to teach her kids not to fuck other human beings over.


It is not even remotely a secret that AirBnB has questionable legal status, especially in large U.S. cities. You had a disquieting experience, true. But the people really being fucked over here are the people trying to live in this city with its insane rents, whose laws you didn't bother to investigate because the price was right. (The briefest of research would have told you in advance that the rental was likely illegal.) That's a fucking-over you and your host collaborated in. So I would temper the moral outrage.

A landlord evicting a rent-stabilized tenant will have various means to jack up the rent for the next tenant. In considering whether to rat this guy out, I guess I would try to decide whether it was more likely this guy was holding onto a place where he didn't live anymore and renting it out for profit or whether he was eking out some income while temporarily away. Because it's illegal, neither is good. But the former is way more morally objectionable than the latter. A faux-rent-stabilized apartment doesn't help the city, either.

Either way, I doubt you can be 100% confident the guy won't figure out it was you. Getting evicted can be a great motivator for retaliation. You don't live in the city. But it's a non-zero risk.

(FYI, this is wrong: For the record - while your host might be in violation of their lease, their airbnb was not necessarily illegal (see "legal restrictions for other rentals" here) because they were also living in the apartment Assuming the apartment is otherwise covered by the law, THE TENANT HAS TO BE PRESENT IN THE APARTMENT DURING THE RENTAL. Not just living there.)
posted by praemunire at 9:00 AM on January 3, 2018 [87 favorites]


To make it clear, what the host was doing is most likely not only against the rules of their apartment building,it was also not allowed by the laws of NYS - buildings with more than three units are prohibited from offering "transient rentals of under 30 days". In some cases if you had 2 BR apartment and stayed there with the air bnb "guest" it would maybe pass legal review. The fact that AirBnb is willing to put up illegal ads is sketchy as hell and the primary reason we discourage folks visiting us in NYC from using airbnb - stories like yours or even worse, the people with reservations with this host who will potentially not be able to stay there at all when the building does shut your host down, are common enough for us to war others from taking that risk.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:03 AM on January 3, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'm kind of against ratting people out if they're not doing something actively dangerous. Consider:

1. He probably needs the money. Would you feel good about this if it turns out that he has medical bills or something else going on?

2. Do you think this is something that someone should be evicted over, especially in a difficult rental market, especially when you have some evidence that he might already be facing a financially difficult situation? Especially given how shady a lot of landlords are? Basically, reporting him is not likely to get you a proportionate, socially appropriate resolution.

3. All these platform-based services are so firmly embedded in scams, dishonesty and exploitation (which is why most AirBnBs in New York are illegal) that if you are using them you are de facto accepting that your experience is part of an ecosysyem of scams and exploitation. I mean, we're all in it together, the economy is bad and it's a structural problem, but this whole thing seems a little like trying to report your graymarket handbag dealer for selling you a bag that develops a hole.

Like, I get that it's tempting - I too would be totally tempted! - but I think it's a bad idea. Leaving a review on AirBnB that lays some of this out seems reasonable, but trying to get someone in trouble seems pretty excessive.
posted by Frowner at 9:06 AM on January 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


I apologize - I misread and thought for some reason that it was a two-bedroom-with-one-rented situation. If that wasn't the situation - if he wasn't living there at the same time - it's a more serious violation.
posted by mosst at 9:08 AM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


[A few comments deleted; let's not get into what commenters think of OP personally here, and as usual AskMe isn't a place for back-and-forth between commenters. ]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:26 AM on January 3, 2018


As someone living in a city that has been overrun by Airbnbs, I say rat him out, take the cash, and take your kids on a weekend trip somewhere else (but for the love of god, just rent a hotel).


Everyone seems to have all kinds of sympathy for the tenant/host, but what about the neighbors in the building? I guarantee they are sick and tired of having a never-ending parade of vacationers staying next door. It erodes the community and drives up rent.

F*&k him, if he wants to break the rules of an apartment he has chosen to live in and possibly those of his city, let him suffer some consequences.
posted by tryniti at 9:28 AM on January 3, 2018 [33 favorites]


This happened to me in a really beautiful high rise in Bangkok. I considered the hassle to be the price of living outside my means for a couple of days.

Don’t borrow trouble. Let all that anger go.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:32 AM on January 3, 2018 [6 favorites]


I gotta be honest, based on what I read above, this experience really doesn't sound as shitty as you say. It sounds inconvenient and a little awkward but nothing bad actually happened. Trying to get the dude evicted is a major overreaction. Let it go.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:33 AM on January 3, 2018 [25 favorites]


If you're going to get someone evicted, you might as well ask for the value of the eviction. If it's a rent-stabilized apartment, that could be 10k or more.

These people lied to you and invaded your space where you were with your kids, I'm not sure why the airbnb host is the one you're mad at.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:37 AM on January 3, 2018 [14 favorites]


I kind of have a hair-trigger tolerance for experiences where I feel like I'm being "fucked over" (I'm working on it), and was expecting to be on Team Bust This Guy. But reading your actual question, I really think you should let this go.

You had an inconvenient experience, and from personal experience it sounds to me like you're riding the crest of the moral outrage wave right now, but give yourself time to get a little perspective. AirBnB is useful in some circumstances but can also be sketchy or worse, and if you didn't know that before, now you do. This guy really wasn't fucking you over. I don't think you're going to feel good about yourself for going for the cash grab, and I really don't think you'd be teaching your kids a very good lesson at all.

Leave calmly-worded feedback that addresses the fact that you were asked to keep your presence there a secret if you feel like you need to do something, and let it go.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:38 AM on January 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


AirBnB is kind of scheme-y by nature; you're deliberately bypassing a hotel (and perhaps not paying a lodging tax) in order to get a great deal. In exchange for these deals, you accept a certain amount of risk and use customer service as your insurance policy. Although you may not have known about this particular risk (even though it's no secret), surely you understood the larger scheme. And customer service fulfilled its role; you got a full refund. I would just leave a review, let it go, and stop using AirBnB or do more research next time.
posted by acidic at 9:43 AM on January 3, 2018 [7 favorites]


I disagree that AirBNB-ing is a victimless crime. It can pose a real security risk to other tenants of the building. Also drives up rent and prices out people looking for reasonably affordable housing.

That said, I am not sure that you've been a victim here. You were inconvenienced and got a refund. You can (and should!) write an accurate review. But assisting in an eviction for cash, even if you need the money, strikes me as the exact opposite of what someone who tries to teach her kids not to fuck other people over would do.
posted by basalganglia at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2018 [14 favorites]


I would let Airbnb know and also leave an honest review. Think of future Airbnb guests: management could kick them out and also the next person might not get super lucky with a last minute, affordable hotel. This host is likely violating their lease, creating a nuisance for neighbors, and being a bad host who subjects their guests to interrogations and intrusions. Don't get them evicted, but spare a future traveler this drama. Frankly, bring asked to lie and sneak around for a place I'm paying for is not OK.
posted by quince at 10:02 AM on January 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


I see OP's point here. When you rent an AirBnb, you have basic expectations that you are allowed to be there. OP wasn't allowed to be there and it ruined OP's trip. I've used Airbnb and it's always been on the up and up. Personally, I would be worried about retaliation from the Airbnb host - it's unlikely, but this is a random stranger you don't know much about. If there was a way to anonymously report the issue, get the cash reward and walk away from the situation, I'd do it, but that doesn't seem feasible here. I mean, maybe you can show the landlord the Airbnb listing and they can use that as evidence without tying it to you or your stay, but you'd need to trust the landlord would do that quietly and leave you out of it. The other option, if you're just mad and don't care about the cash reward, is report it to Airbnb and he won't be allowed to host anymore, but he won't be kicked out of his apartment.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:05 AM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would chalk this one up to the inevitable results of trying to save money by participating in what is essentially a grey-market economy run by a corporation powerful enough to keep the law at bay for now. You got your money back and I have literally no reason to think the landlords would actually pay you that bounty (what's your recourse if they don't?)
posted by griphus at 10:17 AM on January 3, 2018 [10 favorites]


as a parent who tries to teach her kids not to fuck other human beings over

Posting an honest review prevents other travellers from being fucked over by this host. Not cooperating with the landlord prevents the host from being fucked over by the landlord. Unfucking complete.
posted by value of information at 10:32 AM on January 3, 2018 [19 favorites]


Everyone seems to have all kinds of sympathy for the tenant/host,

I don't...but in choosing between the tenant and a landlord who likely doesn't actually give a damn but is just trying to jack up the rent on a rent-stabilized apartment, I think the choice is not entirely clear-cut. If it really is just someone who was going to be away for the weekend but otherwise genuinely lives there, the harm is mostly in the fact that the conduct scaled up is harmful rather than in the individual rental, so taking away someone's rent-stabilized lease in punishment seems disproportionate (that would be a huge blow to anyone). But the odds are considerably higher that the apartment is being used for short-term rentals constantly, in which case...yeah, I don't care about the host. At the same time, when you engage in a shady scheme, you can't really get indignant about the shadiness of the other people involved.

(The offering of what was likely several hundred dollars' bounty is what makes me think it's probably rent-stabilized. It's less likely, though not impossible, that a building that had already gotten in trouble with the city for illegal short-term rentals would be offering actual cash money for proof rather than just investigating. Especially because it's easier to evict a free-market tenant.)
posted by praemunire at 10:35 AM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


What an annoying experience. I think the best thing to do is leave a detailed review of what happened so that other people can make an informed decision about whether to stay there, and also complain again to Airbnb. I've had several Airbnb rentals where people told me (after I'd already booked the place, and by text) to pretend that I was a friend, or avoid a doorman, etc. I think if Airbnb allows these listings at all, the ads should clearly disclose when something is violating a lease or city law. Obviously they don't have much incentive to require or police this, but in the long run, their system is losing them business.
posted by pinochiette at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is part of choosing Airbnb. You’re not a victim here and by ratting him out you’re literally teaching your kid to fuck people over.
posted by Marinara at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


Feedback.
Move on.
Life's too short.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


I vote rat him out. I understand that the social expectation is that everyone is cool with AirBNB, but they are often a serious nuisance to permanent residents, in addition to jacking up rents, leading to lower income people being pushed out. If you're conflicted about taking the money, don't. I'd ask the landlord to send me a receipt for a donation to a tenant's rights organization, or just do that myself.
posted by cnc at 10:56 AM on January 3, 2018 [10 favorites]


I think your host's douchebaggery has been well-covered so far; he's unquestionably a douche. But let's talk about this property manager, huh? She sounds like a real peach, too. First of all, you'll never actually see that money, and second, you're not exactly aligning yourself with the forces of justice here. I might answer your question differently if you were ratting him out to the police, or to Airbnb, or whoever. But there are enough dick landlords in the world already. They don't need to be emboldened.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:11 AM on January 3, 2018 [6 favorites]


In your position I'd be asking myself whether the manager's offer of money was influencing me to give evidence.

Also along the lines of motivation -- what do you hope to accomplish? If it's preventing other guests from having a similar experience, then feedback should be effective. Do you want to reward a management company for interrupting your visit twice, for an "emergency" that they should have contacted the owner about? I'm sure they have his phone number and email.
posted by wryly at 11:14 AM on January 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm also in the camp of leave an honest review, but don't get in the middle of a beef between the host and his landlord. There's no moral satisfaction to be had by you by getting into the middle of their issue.
posted by vignettist at 12:01 PM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'd have turned him in - to both AirBNB AND the property manager - without the offer of money, and probably without the hassle. Just the fact that it was obvious it was not ok would have triggered it.

A [liar] put you and your children at risk of nowhere to stay, at no fault of your own, in an unfamiliar city while you were on vacation. That's over the top.

That property manager was actually NICE. They could have called law enforcement and asked you/him to prove you were a regular guest (if those were even allowed) and when you couldn't, had you removed. Your children likely would have been subjected to interview, too. Would you really expect your children to lie so some AirBNBer can keep his lie going?

I'm really kind of disappointed at the tone of the answers here. This didn't just involve OP and a little bit of inconvenience. It put OPs children at some level of risk that should not have existed. I'm also certain it was an extremely uncomfortable situation, because if it hadn't been, OP would have been like eh, what's another night - instead of leaving.

And as for host "being fucked over by landlord"... hell, no. Breaking lease is breaking lease. If I have 17 dogs and my neighbor reports it, that isn't "being fucked over"... it's the consequences of my [wrong] actions.
posted by stormyteal at 12:45 PM on January 3, 2018 [14 favorites]


Between the host's insisting OP be discreet and the wealth of information a quick google search reveals regarding the illegality of most NYC AirBnB rentals, this wasn't far from someone on the street saying "Pssst, wanna buy a watch" and bringing you into a back alley to buy Rolexes off a card table. Given the nature of the transaction, it's tough to justify much outrage that the Rolex was fake or the AirBnB was illegal.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:00 PM on January 3, 2018 [15 favorites]


I really agree with the advice to leave your experience in feedback; this was definitely an inconvenience but certainly not a trauma.

In the future, staying even in legal Airbnbs is always sort of a risk you take for $$$ savings - these are private homes, not professional hotels run by folks trained in hospitality with procedures for emergencies and unexpected stuff. (frex if the repair happened to render your lodging uninhabitable, a hotel would have quickly placed you in another room or even another hotel if necessary.)

A [liar] put you and your children at risk of nowhere to stay, at no fault of your own, in an unfamiliar city while you were on vacation.

The risk of not being able to find a place to stay in New York City is about zero. Again, this was an inconvenience, not a traumatic crisis that warrants getting the tenant evicted.
posted by lalex at 1:01 PM on January 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


Airbnb has some culpability here too they’re making money off listings, they should know, are probably not permitted by NYC.

I personally wouldn’t report the host at most id leave a bad review. The moral equation isn’t so cut and dry - I’ve known people who have rented their places for good reasons (it can make a serious difference in hard times) and the host refunded you completely already and it sounds like he’ll have to stop soon anyway because of his landlord.

I also think that the piece of mind of letting it go will be much more than if you report him and then worry about retaliation
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 1:18 PM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


PLEASE do not contact the building manager except to tell her that she's an awful human being.

Yes they ginned up the repair.

DO contact airbnb and have them remove this apartment from their listings. You are doing the host a favor, they are going to themselves evicted if they keep listing on airbnb.

I agree the unit is likely rent stabilized and the building manager would never reward you appropriately or enough for helping them secure an eviction, literally this is not worth it! Stay out of it. No. Please.
posted by jbenben at 1:48 PM on January 3, 2018 [10 favorites]


If the building manager suspected it was an illegal rental, why would she not just look on airbnb and vrbo for the listing? Why would she need any proof from you?

I would be very leery of getting involved with her.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:33 PM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


If the building manager suspected it was an illegal rental, why would she not just look on airbnb and vrbo for the listing? Why would she need any proof from you?

If I had to guess I would say she needed proof because the building policy/lease prohibited subletting apartments, the ad is only proof he tried to do as much. New York law added advertising illegal temporary residences as its own crime so that listings alone would be sufficient to prosecute some illegal air bnb renters, but it seems unlikely that a lease would include a provision barring the tenant from listing their apartment.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:38 PM on January 3, 2018


As a general rule be wary of people claiming the law is on their side without quoting chapter and verse (i.e., statute). I'm not saying it's impossible but this sounds like a case of "it's against the rules of this apartment complex" being puffed up to coerce you into doing something. The added incentive of money further suggests that the manager was/is trying to manipulate you. Stay the hell away.
posted by axiom at 5:25 PM on January 3, 2018


If the apartment is rent-stabilized (or one of the other rare subsidized forms of housing in NYC), it is meant to provide housing to low- and middle-income people. I think busting the host is overkill, but the thought of someone AirBNBing a stabilized apartment makes me angry nonetheless.
posted by 8603 at 5:50 PM on January 3, 2018 [7 favorites]


The managing agent offered double what you paid. In exchange you had to give her the evidence of payment. You paid NOTHING. Double nothing is nothing. If you give her the bill as evidence, you owe it to everyone involved to give her the evidence of the refund.

Don't turn him in for the money. If you turn him in do it for some other reason than money.

(Without going into details, I would not turn this guy in. There seem to be a lot of actors here and all of them have some part bad actors.)
posted by AugustWest at 7:04 PM on January 3, 2018


As a New Yorker: I bet this host is an Airbnb-er for profit, not a traditional resident, and the maintenance thing was clearly a sting because management and/or the other tenants want this person out, because they want to rent apartments in a residential building, not a hotel.

However, that’s a gut feeling; maybe everyone else is right and ratting the guy out would leave him homeless.

In any event, I don’t think vengeance is the way to go here because I don’t think it will be worth the hassle for YOU. Definitely leave honest feedback and report to Airbnb (though they know this is the case in NYC properties, let’s be real.)

Management will bust him another time.

Also: Entering into a cash arrangement with a third party is just shady, and from experience, I wouldn’t deal with NYC landlords if I didn’t have absolutely have to. That money won’t be free.
posted by kapers at 7:23 PM on January 3, 2018 [4 favorites]


If I had to guess I would say she needed proof because the building policy/lease prohibited subletting apartments

In NYC it's legal to sublet, even if the lease prohibits it. The law apparently specifies "30 days," but IMO that puts everything here in the grey area AirBnB is exploiting, and not such a cut and dried "the cops gonna throw you out right then, then subpoena you down the line."

I second jbenben overall.
posted by rhizome at 7:30 PM on January 3, 2018


Whatever else, don’t take it for granted you’ll ever see that money.
posted by STFUDonnie at 7:43 PM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Followup from the OP:
Thanks all for the discussion. As a point of clarification, the host very clearly did not live in the apartment he was renting as an AirBNB. It had furniture and basic kitchen gear (dishes, flatware, glasses, small appliances) but no clothing in the (single) bedroom, no food in the fridge, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:06 PM on January 3, 2018


Even with the update, I'd still just leave a factual account in your review, and move on.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:17 PM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


My first apartment in nyc turned out to be an illegal sublet that I got evicted from after paying some rich asshole who lived in la more than his stabilized rent for the privilege of living there. Rat this person out if they aren’t living in the place. Having transient hostelers in your apartment building sucks for everyone who legitimately lives there. Maybe the landlord is a rat but so is the tenant and the people paying the price for the ratty behavior are the neighbors.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:39 PM on January 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


My general ethical position is that nobody participating in a hinky transaction involving hinky third-parties and lots of negative externalities should come out of it ahead: basically, craven_morehead's "psst, wanna buy a watch?" analogy.

So you could rat the host out and (maybe) get the money and then maybe divide it between every other resident of that building and a NYC homeless or tenant's rights charity and that might be a kind of rebalancing on an individual level. Or you could take it through the reviews process or AirBnB customer service and at least feel like you're addressing it at a structural level, even if AirBnB does nothing about it.

There is a quandary here, though: the only way AirBnB starts properly policing its listings is for "hosts" who don't comply with local laws and the terms of their leases to be ratted out and shut down in a fairly public way, enough that it makes AirBnB look bad. I've seen the attempts to regulate this on a municipal level in a small touristy city and it's whack-a-mole, and it's obviously even more so in big cities. But taking that into one's own hands creates the possibility of retaliation that AirBnB will again do nothing about. The least-hassle option for the OP is to let it go.
posted by holgate at 10:39 PM on January 3, 2018


As a NYC resident, I think you should report them. Just email the Airbnb listing to the property manager.

I’ve seen this happening quite a bit in my neighborhood. It absolutely drives up rents, and it needs to stop.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:18 AM on January 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Don’t let me spend money on an Airbnb there. This guy knew he was breaking the rules of the building. Making the paying customer take the fall is unacceptable. I wouldn’t want to be in your situation.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:03 AM on January 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


If the building manager suspected it was an illegal rental, why would she not just look on airbnb and vrbo for the listing? Why would she need any proof from you?

Exactly - it is easy to narrow your search to include known amenities and neighborhood.

... but it seems unlikely that a lease would include a provision barring the tenant from listing their apartment.

If the manager wants to bust this guy, let them set up their own sting at their own expense and risk.
posted by soelo at 7:44 AM on January 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


That property manager was actually NICE. They could have called law enforcement and asked you/him to prove you were a regular guest (if those were even allowed) and when you couldn't, had you removed. Your children likely would have been subjected to interview, too. Would you really expect your children to lie so some AirBNBer can keep his lie going?

This is not something NYC cops are likely to participate in
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:02 AM on January 4, 2018 [4 favorites]


It sounds to me like you're trying to figure out what steps would be better or worse for your own immediate future, and for the values you want to pass on to your kids. You said you are "a parent who tries to teach her kids not to fuck other human beings over" by which I read you to mean that you want them to avoid aggressively exploiting or unwarrantedly harming others, but that it is okay to punish wrongdoers and to benefit from rewards thereby. You've had a bad experience and you place your blame on the host, none on the Airbnb platform or yourself or previous renters who didn't warn about this in reviews or the property managers or NYC rental law.

Other commenters are pointing out that you don't absolutely know what economic situation you were complicit in (whether the host really needs the money) or what economic situation you'd be complicit in if you took the property manager's offer (whether the landlord wants to kick out a rent-stabilized tenant to jack up rents, for instance). But I also don't know your economic situation, or how hard it would be for your household specifically to lock down your physical or digital security if the host (or property manager) decided to pursue you. I agree with others here that the safest option, though less remunerative, is likely to leave accurate feedback on the Airbnb listing explaining what happened during your stay.

I do not know what news sources you read or how you judge services you're about to use. It sounds like whatever your approach was before this incident was an approach that didn't alert you to the parasitical and often illegal nature of Airbnb rental. If you care about that, you might want to consider reading What's Yours Is Mine by Tom Slee -- it's a pretty fast read and will help you notice if other new services popping up are likely to be similar.
posted by brainwane at 11:36 AM on January 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


or how hard it would be for your household specifically to lock down your physical or digital security if the host (or property manager) decided to pursue you

Just from a risk perspective, my sense is that something like this ("AirBnB Host Harasses Customer Who Left Bad Review") would be national news, so...unlikely.
posted by rhizome at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2018


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