Airbnb listings mostly illegal says NY state

New York attorney general Eric T Schneiderman maintains nearly three-quarters of all Airbnb rentals in the city were illegal.

Airbnb, the pioneering home rental service, presents itself as useful and virtuous, but the reality is far less benign, according to a report that Mr Schneiderman released last week.

The report says nearly three-quarters of all Airbnb rentals in the city are illegal, violating zoning or other laws. Commercial operators, not hard-luck residents, supply more than a third of the units and generate more than a third of the revenue. At least a handful of landlords are running what amount to illegal hostels.

Property owners on Airbnb are indeed making money but it is not being spread around. Most rentals are in three high-profile Manhattan neighborhoods. Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island barely figure.

Airbnb did not dispute the numbers in the report, “We need to move forward,” an Airbnb spokesman, Nick Papas, said. “We need to work together on some sensible rules that stop bad actors and protect regular people who simply want to share the home in which they live.”

In some contentious spots, like San Francisco, where the local government endorsed a plan last week to essentially legalise Airbnb, a resolution may be in sight. But in New York, where real estate is often viewed as a blood sport, the battle is only deepening.

Mr Schneiderman and city regulators will also announce on Thursday [23 October] a joint enforcement initiative to shut down illegal hotels. Various regulators will investigate violations of building and safety codes and tax regulations.

“Anyone operating an illegal hotel should be on notice that the state and city will take aggressive enforcement actions in this area,” said Mr Schneiderman. “A slick advertising campaign doesn’t change the fact that this is illegal activity.”

Meanwhile, a cost comparison from TripAdvisor, which features more than 630,000 holiday rental properties around the world, shows families and groups travelling for a week or more can save substantially by choosing a holiday rental, rather than a hotel.

The study looks at the average cost of accommodation for a week’s stay in a two-bedroom holiday rental, as well as a week’s stay in two bedrooms in a three-star hotel, in international destinations popular with travellers during the year-end peak holiday season.

The results show that travellers, specifically those in need of multiple bedrooms for an extended stay, can save up to 57 per cent by choosing a holiday rental.

For travellers planning a trip in Asia Pacific, the greatest savings can be found in Goa, Tokyo and Penang, where a one-week stay in a two-bedroom rental property comes in 57 per cent, 41 per cent and 30 per cent cheaper respectively than the same stay in two three-star hotel rooms.

Those heading further afield can expect similar savings in popular North American and European destinations, with two bedroom rental properties coming in up to 39 per cent cheaper than two hotel rooms.

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