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Apartment Rentals

The Guardian has a nice article about a law in New York, passed this weekend, which bans what legislators call 'illegal hotels' or 'no-tels'. The article doesn't make entirely clear who this legislation will benefit, but it makes it clear who it will hurt: budget-conscious travelers and the New Yorkers who cater to them.

(from Flickr user Stillframe)

This paragraph strikes me as particularly odd:
The bill blames the internet for the rise of illegal hotels, stating that "it is easier than ever to advertise illegal hotel rooms" and "most tourists have no idea they have not made reservations at legitimate hotels until they arrive at their destination". Sites such as AirBnB – which has more than 3,000 properties listed in New York City - maintain they make it very clear that these are residential properties.
I've looked on both Craigslist and AirBnB, and I never even once suspected that short-term apartment rental listings were actual hotels. Now, I've also never actually rented from anyone on these websites, and certainly there needs to be caution taken by anyone who would potentially do it, but I question the idea that 'most' or even a significant number of people are legitimately being deceived.

I've traveled to quite a few American cities, and the rack rates at New York's hotels are seriously through the roof. And because these hotels have a reputation to manage, I believe most would rather leave a room empty than advertise a low enough rate to get it filled. That's not to say you can't get good deals. I've stayed three nights in nice Manhattan hotels for less than $100, thanks to Priceline, which goes to show that the market rate for New York City's hotels isn't always what you see advertised.

The unfortunate losers in this legislation are the people who are welcoming hosts and their guests who will have to look for accommodations in New York City's already overheated hotel market. I don't know how big the market for short-term apartment rentals is in New York City, but in theory, this legislation should have the effect of driving already inflated hotel prices in Manhattan even higher.


John Morris said…
I tend to agree. Most of these regulations are absurd.

However, from a distance, I do think there are in many cases harmed parties.

I think sometimes in a neighborhood like say--Clinton (Hells Kitchen) there is obviosly huge potential demand to rent short term. People who are renting and sign long leases can find that their building is a de facto hotel and feel decieved.

However, given the nature of Craigslist and the internet, the number of possible people subletting is endless.

Water will find it's own level.

Everyone I knew with a place in NY, knew, they could sublet it, often at a big profit on a seasonal basis and most did.

Interestingly, The Upper East Side of Manhattan is legendary for having a very inaccurate census count. The main reason is people with huge rent controled apartments subletting them out to students or seasonal rentals.

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