New York City says Airbnb is legal (sort of)

Airbnb, a home-renting site that is one of the vanguards of the so-called “sharing economy,” has been under fire in big cities — including New York — where authorities have found that it violates local zoning laws. The service got a boost this week, however, after an appeal board found that a resident who rented out his room to two Russian tourists did not violate New York City’s prohibition against short term rentals.

In its decision, the board reversed a $2,400 fine that an inspector imposed on condo owner Nigel Warren, who had charged the tourist a fee and provided keys for three days.

Airbnb hailed the decision as victory in a blog post, declaring that, “the sharing economy is here to stay, and so are we.” (See Om’s recent profile on its new hire of Chip Conley here).

While the decision is a victory for the popular short-term rental service, the win is a fairly narrow one. The board based its decision on an exception to the 30 day rule, which applies if a full-time tenant is living in the apartment while the renter is there: the guest then has legal access to all parts of the apartment.

In Warren’s case, his roommate was present while the tourists were there.┬áThe board ruled that a lower judge was wrong to fine Warren on the basis of the fact that the roommate and the two Russian tourists were complete strangers. It also found that the inspector never confirmed whether the Russians had access to all parts of the apartment.

The decision is likely to provide more grist to a conflict in New York between the many people who rent rooms through Airbnb, and frustrated residents who complain about their homes turned into illegal hotels.

You can read the ruling for yourself here:


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