Sunday, November 6, 2016

Airbnb law not coming to Buffalo - yet

By Patrick Koster and Dave DeLuca
Bengal News Reporters
            Artwork adorns the walls. Comfortable furnishings fill each room. The kitchens come fully stocked with pots, pans and other utensils.
            Does it come with a washer and dryer, too?
            Sure does, but this isn’t an apartment for you to move into. It’s an Airbnb.
            Airbnb is an online peer marketplace for listing and renting residential properties for a temporary period of time. Airbnb has grown in popularity so much over the past few years that legislation has been implemented to control its use.
            Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill on Oct. 21 banning the advertising of New York Airbnb rentals of less than 30 days in multi-unit buildings if the tenant isn’t present. Hosts can be fined up to $7,500. A 2010 law involving renting a property in a multi-use building for less than 30 days only pertains to New York City and will not affect Buffalo properties.
            Joe Galvin, who owns an Airbnb property at 49 19th St., thinks the 2010 law will spread throughout the state of New York.
            “I don’t think that it’ll affect us now, but in the future, when the politicians revisit this issue and see what’s going on, I’m sure they’re going to want to do it for the rest of New York,” Galvin said.

            A majority of Galvin’s tenants stay for less than 30 days.
            "We'll rent them out to people that want to come to Buffalo for the weekend. Maybe that weekend is two, three, four days. I've had some long-term tenants. I've had some tenants that have stayed four months, three months, a month and a half," Galvin said.
            One sponsor of the new bill is State Sen. Liz Krueger, D- Manhattan. Justin Flagg, Krueger’s communications director, said Airbnb hosts have been providing cheaper housing of entire apartments in multi-unit buildings, which is devaluing the housing market in New York City.
            Previously, tenants would list their apartments on Airbnb without their landlords’ knowledge. When the tenants/Airbnb hosts would illegally rent out their apartments, their landlords would be held accountable. With this new bill, Flagg said landlords have the ability to hold their tenants accountable.
            “So this new law basically does two things,” Flagg said. “It allows you to use the actual posting on a web platform as evidence of breaking the law and it allows the city to issue the fine directly to the person who is responsible for the listing, as opposed to the landlord.”
            But Airbnb is fighting back. It recently filed a lawsuit against the City of New York for alleged violation of Airbnb’s free-speech rights.
            “In typical fashion, Albany back-room dealing rewarded a special interest—the price-gouging hotel industry—and ignored the voices of tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” Josh Meltzer, Airbnb’s head of public policy for New York said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for a smart policy solution that works for the people, not the powerful.”
            Flagg said Airbnb has moved past its professed intention of having a sharing economy, such as renting out a bed, couch or room. He said Airbnb is now monetizing the affordable housing stock for profit.
            “We get calls from our constituents, older people who their neighbor is renting out an apartment on Airbnb and somebody comes in and has a big, loud party, and they’re afraid to confront them because it’s not the neighbor they know,” Flagg said. “The landlord doesn’t like it because they’re causing problems in their building. We have hotels that are equipped to deal with those sorts of things.”
            While New York City Airbnbs are coming under scrutiny, back in Buffalo, Galvin has has had just one bad experience when he rented his property to a college student who threw an unauthorized party. only seen one problem with Airbnb tenants.
            Overall, Galvin thinks Airbnb provides guests with unique opportunities.
            "The classic theory about hotels are when you fly into a city, you stay out by the airport and stay in a concrete box," Galvin said. "Here, we try to give the experience of being in a home away from home."