Rosenberg & Estis Secures First Temporary Restraining Order Against Airbnb Since Recent Local Law Passed

by | Oct 4, 2023 | Press Releases

Rosenberg & Estis, P.C. secured the first successful temporary restraining order against Airbnb and one of its New York apartment hosts, prohibiting the use and the advertisement of the host’s apartment on Airbnb, since implementation of New York City Local Law 18 banning millions of apartments from offering short-term rentals.

In a precedent-setting victory in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Judge Suzanne Adams issued a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) against Airbnb and the tenant of an Upper West Side apartment managed by Canvas Property Group for violating Local Law 18, which prohibits the short-term rental of an unregistered apartment.

The decision, which comes on the heels of the State Supreme Court’s dismissal of Airbnb’s challenge to the legality of Local Law 18, paves the way for Canvas and the owners of the apartment to evict the tenant for illegal subletting, but also to pursue damages from both the tenant and Airbnb, providing a playbook for other landlords looking to prevent and suspend illegal rentals in their properties.

“This is a clear signal to Airbnb and its hosts in New York City that they cannot ignore the law,” said Michael A. Pensabene, a Member of Rosenberg & Estis’ Litigation Department who represented the building owner. “The court’s granting of an immediate temporary restraining order demonstrates that Airbnb and the tenant must comply with Local Law 18.”

First enacted in January 2023, LL18 recategorized whole classes of accommodations as unauthorized, including rent controlled and stabilized apartments, Mitchell Lama properties and any property receiving a federally subsidized mortgage. It also allowed any property owner – of any property type – to request a permanent overriding veto against registration so that, in the event a tenant or unit owner applied to register their property, it would be immediately flagged as prohibited by request of the building owner or management.

In this case, Canvas Property Group, which manages the apartment building on behalf of ownership, had been diligent in its application of the new law and registered the property as prohibited. Once Canvas had knowledge that the tenant was renting her apartment as a vacation home on the Airbnb platform, Canvas’ diligence permitted Rosenberg & Estis to promptly secure a victory against the offending tenant and Airbnb.

According to Rosenberg & Estis Member Peter B. Kane and Associate Daniel E. Kirshblum, it soon became apparent that the tenant had never lived in the three-bedroom apartment and had rented it solely to operate it as an Airbnb.

“Unfortunately, this is all-too prevalent in New York,” said Kane. “Short-term rentals have become a cloak and dagger operation with so-called hosts giving their guests secret instructions to dupe building owners. Despite its ability to check the city register for prohibited apartments, Airbnb turned a blind eye and conspired with the tenant to rent the unit to tourists and visitors.”

With thousands of short-term rentals still being advertised in the city, Rosenberg & Estis anticipates more actions against scofflaws and the online platform.

“For the first time, the city is holding Airbnb accountable for violating a law designed to police an increasingly opaque industry and restore the city’s stock of affordable housing to permanent residents,” said Pensabene. “Rosenberg & Estis will continue to rigorously represent and work with clients, such as Canvas, against those who believe they can choose to ignore the law to the landlords’ detriment.”

The TRO remains in full force and effect against both the tenant and Airbnb until further argument can be heard by the Court in late October on the underlying motion for a full injunction.