Building owners in New York City need to be diligent in preventing their properties from being used for short-term leasing by tenants (e.g., the use of Airbnb).
Even when leases don’t specifically restrict it, short-term rentals are specifically prohibited by the Multiple Dwelling Law and the Housing Maintenance Code. Pursuant to Multiple Dwelling Law, § 4(8(a) states “A ‘Class A’ multiple dwelling shall be used for permanent residence purposes. For the purpose of this definition, ‘permanent residence purposes’ shall consist of occupancy of a dwelling unit by the same natural person or family for 30 consecutive days or more.”
The structure and purpose of these dwellings are not designed for transient use. The classification of these buildings as “Class A” dwellings specifically prohibits that transient use of the dwelling.
In addition to the Multiple Dwelling Law, § 27-2078 of the Housing Maintenance Code states, “A family may rent one (1) or more rooms in an apartment to not more than two (2) boarders, roomers, or lodgers, … where a tenant rents any part of the apartment in a multiple dwelling to more than two (2) boarders, roomers, or lodgers, such a rental shall constitute a use of the apartment for single room occupancy, and such rental in an apartment of a converted dwelling unit shall constitute an unlawful use as a rooming unit.”
The New York City Department of Buildings has a task force assigned to inspect and issue violations for misuse of these codes, and if a violation is issued, the violation is issued against the owner, not the tenant who is improperly using the dwelling.
Often, it’s not just one violation that is issued when improper use is found, it’s multiple violations for the same act. This is because “Class B” dwellings generally have distinct regulations concerning areas like sprinkler and fire alarm systems. When the Department of Buildings issues a violation for the actual short-term use, they usually issue violations for both the short-term use and any violations that arise out of the “Class B” short-term use for a dwelling that is not designed to be used that way. This means that even though the building owner had no involvement in the short-term rental, the fact that the sprinkler or fire alarm systems are not designed for short-term use will cause an additional violation to issue. So these violations usually cost the building owner more in fines than the average violation.
Given these potential fines, it is advisable for building owners to take the necessary steps to stop short-term use by tenants, including commencement of the appropriate eviction proceedings where necessary.
Contact me with questions or comments.
Jordi Fernandez Law, P.C.
420 Lexington Avenue, Suite 2920
New York, NY 10170