Vacation Rental Regulations in NYC


In recent years, New York City has seriously clamped down on short-term vacation rentals. Since the arrival of vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway, it’s become increasingly difficult to control rent prices in major cities around the world, and the cost of rentals has skyrocketed.

There’s undeniably a high demand for short-term rentals in NYC, as tourists often just want to stay for a few days and have the privacy of their own apartment during their time in the city. This has aggravated the rental industry as for landlords or tenants it’s much more profitable to rent your apartment for a few days at a time than it is to rent long term.

Cities around the United States, such as San Francisco — and worldwide, such as Barcelona and Paris — have implemented similar measures in a bid to control inflating rent prices and make things easier for the city and its residents. So are vacation rentals legal in NYC? It depends on how long they are being rented for. Here’s the lowdown.


The 30-Day Rule

City laws dictate that it is illegal to rent an apartment, condo, or co-op for a period of fewer than 30 days — unless the owner is also present during the short-term rental period. This law covers apartments, condos, and co-ops that are in buildings that have three or more residential units, which is known as ‘multiple dwelling’ in state law. The exception is that if you’re the landlord of the entire building, the rules are different, but for the average apartment owner or tenant, you can’t rent the whole apartment unless it’s for a long-term period of more than 30 days.

New Yorkers can be present in their apartment during short-term stays so they can, therefore, rent rooms to short-term guests and make extra cash on the side. Rooms in occupied apartments can be rented for short stays of as little as one day. The downside is that the tenant, or owner, has to be present during the guest’s stay — something which isn’t ideal for a homeowner looking to make extra cash from an empty apartment. Equally, it’s not ideal for the person on vacation who wants privacy.


Clamping Down

Over the past months, there have been raids on illegal home rentals that have been reported, making it into the mainstream news. In November 2018, the city’s Airbnb enforcement officials conducted one of their largest raids to date on a group of West Side luxury condos, some of which were being illegally rented as short-term rentals. It was reported that almost two dozen of the condo owners received violation orders. The city is really clamping down on illegal short-term rental activity and it’s making demonstrations to show that it will not tolerate illegal activity or homeowners that disregard the law. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is fully behind the clamp down.

In other cities in the country, such as San Francisco, listings on sites such as Airbnb plummeted once similar state law was enforced in 2018. Listings on Airbnb almost halved following the laws that were introduced whereby homeowners had to register their homes with the city for a $250 fee, with fines as high as $1,000 a day if they did not. If a homeowner is not present, they can only rent their home for a maximum of 90 days per year.


Going Against the Law

Regardless of the law, many homeowners and tenants continue to illegally rent their homes. For them, the possibility of high profit outweighs the risk of a fine. As a tourist renting an apartment short-term, the risk is the possibility that you could be kicked out of the apartment mid-stay if someone tells officials about what’s going on. Maybe it could be a doorman in a bad mood, or a jilted lover, or neighbor — it’s not unheard of that New Yorkers are turning on fellow New Yorkers for taking part in illegal short-term rentals. So while there are still plenty of listings on Airbnb, HomeAway, and other vacation rental platforms, it’s best to steer clear and find a hotel, aparthotel, or a spare room in an occupied apartment — it’s not worth risking your holiday!


Short-Term Rental Popularity

It’s easy to see why renting an apartment in NYC for a short period of time is so tempting. Not only do you feel like a local when you stay in an apartment, but you can save a lot of money by not having to eat out all the time. You can cook your meals, lounge around as you please, and stay in more affordable neighborhoods. The hotel industry is always booming in NYC, but for many travelers, there’s something much more appealing about staying in an apartment, especially when hotels in New York are notoriously expensive.


What Are Your Other Options?

If you’re set on the idea of having a private apartment to yourself, look at sites such as AllTheRooms and Booking.com which list plenty of apart-hotels. These normally come with their own kitchenette, living-room area, and the privacy that you’re looking for. Suite hotels are also a good option for that extra sense of privacy. Other than that, you might have to accept paying for a hotel or stay in a room in an apartment with the owner or tenant present. 


Avoid Scams

Be careful of using sites such as Craigslist — while you can find great rental deals there are also plenty of scams. These come mainly in the form of fake listings and oblivious vacationers who transfer a security deposit to the fraudster and lose a lot of money. Many have experienced a holiday-destroying moment when they’ve turned up to find out that the property they think they’re staying in doesn’t even exist, or that the homeowner had no idea they were coming and had to turn them away. Be sure to check out tips to avoid being scammed with a vacation rental on Craigslist.


Consider a Time Share

If you’re a regular in New York and really want your own space when visiting, what about considering an investment in a timeshare? You’ll get access to a private apartment for a few weeks of the year — it’s a good way of getting around the short-term let rule.

Putting your home on the short-term rental market? See what your local competition is doing with AllTheRooms. Download your free sample report today!