October 15, 2013

New York City fights Airbnb rentals

City officials say that the short-term room rentals undercuts hotels, avoids taxes and threatens safety.

By Verena Dobnik
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Mishelle Farer poses for picture in her apartment, where she rents a room on Airbnb, in New York, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. Farer is an avid user of Airbnb, a website that allows travelers to rent other people's homes or rooms. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Having strangers coming in and out of a residential building “is a terrible problem,” says Tom Cayler, chairman of the Illegal Hotel Committee for Manhattan’s West Side Neighborhood Alliance. “If you come home at night and there are people in the lobby or elevator who you don’t know, you should be scared.”

Sam Shaber, a musician who rented space on the Lower East Side for $150 to $225 a night, says she welcomed guests from France, Argentina, Sweden and elsewhere. And she said she always got a good sense of them from online exchanges and profiles before handing over the keys.

“In this day and age of Craigslist, we have a radar for who’s weird,” Shaber said. “We never had one problem.”

Airbnb renters say they can offer an experience hotels can’t – the opportunity to live like a native in funky neighborhoods off the beaten tourist paths.

Sergio Verdasco, 33, a mechanical engineer in San Sebastian, Spain, was hosted by Farer in Williamsburg for three nights.

“It was an amazing experience – a soft landing in a city where I don’t know the people and don’t speak the language well,” he said by phone. “She told me where to go, what she likes.”

“It’s not the same as taking up a guide and doing what a million people do.”

Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

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