Illegal Hotels: fines & enforcement improved, decline in complaints

In 2010, my bill to protect tenants and tourists against illegal hotels was enacted. Since then, the law has been clear: operating a residential apart-ment as a transient hotel is illegal in New York City. Unfortunately, while clarifying state law improved the ability of city enforcement agencies, like the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE), to issue violations against some offenders, enforcement is still difficult.

To combat these abuses, Councilmember Gale Brewer’s new legislation on illegal hotel fines went into effect last month. Previously, when an owner was found guilty of operating an illegal hotel, the fi-ne was about $800, no matter how many units had been used improperly, or how many times. This sum was so minimal it was often still profitable to operate illegal hotels. Now, however, fines can be as much as $25,000, and violators can be punished for posting an ad for illegal short-term hotel use, as well as for operating it.

With these new fines in effect, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement has reported a decline in complaints; proof that the new legislation has de-terred illegal hotel operators from violating the law. If you believe someone is operating an illegal hotel in your building, call 311.