As New York City cracks down on short-term rentals, landlords are lawyering up to recoup their losses and protect themselves from fines as tenants unlawfully list their leased apartments.
The owner of 207 Columbus Avenue (between 69th and 70th streets) is suing tenant Carmen Magarin de Dominguez for illegally listing her three-bedroom apartment on Airbnb. According to the landlord’s lawyer, Michael Pensabene, a real estate attorney with Rosenberg & Estis, Dominguez is advertising the unit—which she doesn’t reside in—as a space that can accommodate up to 16 guests at a rate of $1,000 per night.
The five-story UWS walkup was hit with a $12,000 fine for violating Local Law 18, according to the NY Post, which first reported on these lawsuits. The law mandates that hosts register their apartments with the city to legally rent their spaces for stays under 30 days.
Even though Airbnb removed Dominguez’s listing on September 21, the landlord is at risk of receiving an additional, potentially more costly fine if Dominguez continues to list her unregistered apartment on other sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
Dominguez failed to appear at her court hearing on Monday, but previously claimed that the people coming and going from her apartment were “friends and family” and “roommates.” Another landlord, Wid Realty Corp., is also suing Dominguez and has been trying to evict her since April from an apartment a block away at 227 Columbus Avenue.
Dominguez has denied Wid Realty Corp.’s claims that she violated multi-dwelling regulations by listing her unit on Airbnb.
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Airbnb says it will fully cooperate with New York’s efforts to enforce the law as it relies on the city’s verification system to reject unregistered hosts. Since the law went into effect, Airbnb’s presence has started plummeting in New York City.
In addition to the city’s struggle to meet the demand for registrations, some stipulations of the new law have made hosting less desirable for New Yorkers. For example, hosts are required to be home when renting their space to visitors, and they’re not permitted to host more than two guests per night.
The implementation of Local Law 18 is raising concerns on Wall Street. According to a Bloomberg report, an “all-time high” of six analysts are advising investors to sell Airbnb stock.
On West 63rd Street, the owner of a unit at 30 Lincoln Plaza is suing 73-year-old tenant Jerome Dewald, claiming he’s been renting out his one-bedroom apartment at the 33-story luxury building for $175 a night, plus a second “private sitting room” for $87 a night.
Dewald admits he has been renting his space on Airbnb and that his apartment was not registered with the city. However, he denies allegations that he brought sheetrock and wooden 2x4s into the building to create an additional bedroom. The building’s 24-hour doormen and surveillance cameras detected Dewald transporting these materials on two occasions.
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If Dewald were creating an additional bedroom, it would be a direct violation of his lease and disregard for required approval from the Department of Buildings.
Dewald’s landlord, S&P Associates, has yet to be fined for his unlawful rental listings, which Airbnb took down after the lawsuit was filed on October 5.
S&P Associates also claims that Dewald hasn’t paid rent since the pandemic, and according to his Airbnb profile, he has a dog, which violates the building’s no-pet policy.
This isn’t the first time Dewald’s infamy landed him in the spotlight. Last year, a video of him holding a bullhorn that shouted “a**hole” at cyclists who ignored the rules of the road in Central Park went viral.
In 2005, Dewald was convicted of fraud and larceny for running two political action committees for opposing candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush. Dewald also ran a PAC as a marijuana legalization advocate that came under scrutiny in New York.