having some...reservations (ba dum tssh)
August 15, 2018 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to NYC and debating between booking an Airbnb or a regular hotel. Is Airbnb in New York an epic gamble/mistake in light of the "crackdown" on hosts I keep reading about?

I am solely looking at "superhost" properties, so I'm not too worried about shady owner behavior or random cancellations. However, I know that most Airbnbs in NYC are technically illegal. That seems to have stopped literally no people from listing their places, of course.

How likely is it that I'll arrive (in ~a month) to find my host has been booted off the platform and I'm SOL with nowhere to stay?

The cost differential is about $400 for the stay, which I can technically afford but heck, that's a lot of street slices and museum admissions.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (11 answers total)
Not an AirBnB host, but a friend is (and they abide strictly to NYC law) and here's the info.

NYC law about AirBnB is: you can host someone in your home for a short-term stay if you are also going to be there. For an AirBnB rental where you're renting out the entire place, it has to be over 30 days' duration. So, you could try confining yourself to "private room" bookings instead of "entire place". Your host would be there (nominally), and that would be legal.

Fair warning that AirBnB's effect on rents here is an emotionally-fraught issue as well, so a cheaper hotel may also be something to consider. Where are you looking for hotels and what prices have you been seeing? If you're willing to go into the outer boroughs, the prices may drop a good deal too. (Memail me if you're more comfortable.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on August 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am solely looking at "superhost" properties, so I'm not too worried about shady owner behavior or random cancellations. However, I know that most Airbnbs in NYC are technically illegal.

The "superhost" properties are much more likely to be illegal listings, because those are mostly apartments which were rented for the sole purpose of flipping them for AirBnBs.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:19 AM on August 15, 2018 [27 favorites]

You are relatively unlikely to find yourself out on the street without recourse. It's up to you whether those extra slices and museum visits are worth deliberate violation of a law designed to protect vulnerable people in an extremely tight housing market. Landlords are driving out rent-stabilized tenants (often poor or elderly) with illegal tactics in the hopes of being able to rent those units out on AirBnB. Is that something you're comfortable being a part of?
posted by praemunire at 8:25 AM on August 15, 2018 [29 favorites]

I actually did find myself out on the street when a host wasn’t able to let me in because it was an illegal rental- this was early 2017. Airbnb paid for the difference in a hotel cost in my case, but who knows if it they still would.
posted by Monday at 8:39 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Like showbiz_liz says, the law the city is doing a shitty job of enforcing is aimed primarily at keeping people from running illegal/unlicensed hotels out of multiple properties they own; renting one from an individual letting their own personal home would be “safer” and far more likely to be a legal arrangement.
posted by griphus at 8:55 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've never had trouble with Airbnbs in NYC in the past (including earlier this year), though things may be different now. It's usually possible to tell from photos & emailing the host whether an apartment is their primary residence or not. The flip side of the point above about violating a law meant to protect people is that some people are just earning some much-needed money and going to stay at their boyfriend or girlfriend's place for the nights while you're there. I have friends who are artists, etc, who rely on this income to help cover bills. Otherwise, if you're comfortable renting a room in a shared apartment, that's the legal way to do it. But you may also be able to rent a floor in a townhouse (I've done this before), which would be both private and legal if the owners are still in the rest of the house, as far as I understand it.
posted by pinochiette at 9:02 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've booked AirBnBs in Brooklyn many times with no problems and no cancellations. I look for places that appear to be legal, with the owner also staying there (so, lots of middle bedrooms in railroad apartments and pull-out couches in living room nooks), and good/detailed reviews. If you specifically look for a private room / shared bathroom situation, I think you're more likely to find a legal listing. Despite my best efforts, I did once end up in a place where the whole building was obviously being used as an illegal AirBnB hotel.

If you're willing to go a bit further out or if you're ok with less space/fewer amenities, you can find hotel rooms priced at about the same level as a decent AirBnB. For instance, an acquaintance of mine recently stayed at Pod Brooklyn and had good things to say; the same chain also has pod hotels in Manhattan.
posted by ourobouros at 9:05 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

for clarity - if the owner is also staying there it is not illegal in new york state. the law prohibits the rental of whole units for periods of less than a month.

personally, id probably stay in a hotel, since no number of folks chiming in saying they have done it successfully would be enough to quash my anxiety about the risk that it happened to me (and it does happen, if not frequently).

if you are definitely looking to air bnb the only legal way to do it would be to share a unit with someone but if that wasnt desirably id think you'd be best off picking a place that clearly looks lived in by a real person, rather than stock photos or an obviously constantly-rented unit.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:58 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was just in NYC and we stayed at an Airbnb in Greenpoint. We rented the whole apartment, in an apartment building (no doorman or anything like that). It was clear many people in the building also airbnb'd given the number of lock boxes on the front of the property. It did appear that someone lived there sometimes but I also got the vibe that it was mostly used as an Airbnb. It was great - cheaper, easier, and much more relaxed than a hotel.
posted by hepta at 10:13 AM on August 15, 2018

I've stayed without problems, but always look for places that are clearly in-use residences where the host stays with a friend or SO while I'm there (much like what pinochiette describes). Not technically legal as far as I understand, but also not contributing meaningfully to the problem of apartments being removed from the rental market in order to become de-facto hotels. Some correspondence with the host as well as taking a close look at photos can make this distinction clear pretty quickly.
posted by quince at 1:06 PM on August 15, 2018

Honestly, I’d stay in Staten Island. A lot of great duplexes where one half is being AirBnBed and the owner is in the other half but there are doors and locks in between, plus I don’t think they are the focus of crackdowns.
posted by corb at 3:43 PM on August 15, 2018

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