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5 Easy Ways for Co-op and Condo Boards to Fight Illegal Short-Term Rentals

Morningside Heights, Manhattan

Illegal short-term apartment rentals, co-op and condo boards, Local Law 18, Airbnb.
June 4, 2024

Co-op and condo boards across New York City rejoiced when Local Law 18 went into effect last fall — and promptly cut down on illegal short-term apartment rentals in their buildings. By requiring short-term rental hosts to register with the Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) and confirm that they have a right to rent the space — and by imposing stiff fines on violators — the law has caused the number of illegal Airbnb listings to plunge by 15,000.

But the war is not yet won.

“In most established buildings and co-ops, [short-term rentals] have become the rare exception rather than the norm,” Steven Goldschmidt, a board member of his Morningside Heights co-op and a broker at Coldwell Banker Warburg, tells Brick Underground. “I'm sure there's still people in New York to try it and try to avoid it." (The apartment owner must be present the entire time during a lease that runs for fewer than 30 days.)

Here are five easy ways for co-op and condo boards to make sure apartments in their building are not rented out illegally:

Do your own spot checks. Boards and their property managers should check online platforms such Airbnb, Vrbo, and others to see if a unit in their building is listed. Boards should also check sites that don’t exclusively list short-term rentals, such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. These websites are excluded from Local Law 18’s requirements to verify that a host has registered with the OSE because the two platforms don’t charge fees for their rental listings.

Become a prohibited bullding. If a board wants to ban any and all short-term rentals, it should apply to join the OSE’s prohibited buildings list. You can apply to be placed on the list online.

Recruit building staff as enforcers. Doormen and other building staffers can help spot suspicious behavior, such as guests showing up with suitcases and unable to name the "hosts" they're visiting. “If the door staff senses that the guest is really staying at an Airbnb — usually if they don’t know the name of the apartment owner, a dead giveaway, they will report it,” Goldschmidt says.

Inform residents of the rules — and fines. A big part of preventing bad behavior is making sure shareholders and unit-owners understand the rules — and the consequences for breaking them. Residents who are aware of the rules — and follow them — might be more willing to give the board a heads-up if they notice someone breaking the rules. Some boards have imposed their own fines on illegal sublets, which can range from $500 to $5,000.

Require guests to register. Boards can require that residents notify their super, property manager or even the board when a guest will be staying in their apartment while the resident is absent. Goldschmidt's building uses the property management software BuildingLink to keep tabs on guests. “Residents are required to register any time that they are away and plan to have ‘guests’ staying in their apartment,” he says. “When the guest arrives, if there is no notation in BuildingLink, the guests will not be given access by the door staff.”

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