New York City Tenant Sued For $300K By Landlord Over Airbnb Rental Fines

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Madalina IacobMadalina Iacob

A New York City, New York, landlord is suing a tenant for $300,000 because she repeatedly rented out her apartment on Airbnb for $200 a night.

The landlord claims in his lawsuit that tenant Madalina Iacob has cost the building over $60,000 in fines because of her Airbnb listing, the New York Daily News reports.

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"Under the law, the landlord is strictly liable even though it's the tenant causing the violation — and even though we're not participating in this with this lady," Lawrence Silberman, the building’s lawyer, said.

Iacob’s lease states that she may not sublet her $2,095 per month one bedroom apartment.

Under state law, only a permanent resident may sublet a property for less than 30 days if that resident continues to live in the unit, according to the New York Daily News. It is illegal to sublet an apartment for less than 30 days.

The city caught Iacob subletting in May, and issued four violations to the building, including operating as an illegal hotel, not having the required amount of exits for a hotel, and not having an adequate fire alarm system for a hotel.

It was not immediately known to the building owner who was renting an apartment on Airbnb, which resulted in the fines, until building staff caught Iacob in the act.

"It was purely fortuitous. We were in the building making repairs when somebody happened to show up with luggage" heading to Iacob's apartment, Silberman said.

Iacob had been renting the apartment on Airbnb since at least 2013, but she told the building’s management that it would not happen again. There is no doorman for the building to monitor who comes and goes from the property.

The violations against the building were corrected, and the penalties dropped.

In July, city inspectors found Iacob had rented her apartment again.

A city administrative judge fined the landlord $45,000 for transient use and another $16,000 in base fines for Iacob’s “chronic bad acts.”

"The decision and order was emailed to defendant who again refused to accept responsibility and in fact claimed that she was not involved in any wrongdoing," the landlord's suit states.

In August and October, renters were again found in Iacob’s apartment. The building now fears it may be liable for fines of $250,000.

The lawsuit wants a court order to be placed blocking Iacob from renting her apartment and to make her pay the building’s fine, as well as $50,000 in legal fees.

Iacob told the New York Daily News she plans to hire a lawyer and fight the charges.

According to resident Bill Waldron, Iacob is not the only tenant renting her apartment on Airbnb.

"Airbnb folks are in and out of here all the time," he said.

Tenants in New York are not the only ones using Airbnb to make extra money.

Landlords have been known to rent out vacant apartments on the site, and a bill was introduced earlier this year that would strictly penalize offenders of the city’s short-term rental ban, the New York Daily News reported.

Under the new legislation, a first-time offense would carry a fine of $10,000—it is currently $1,000. The maximum penalty would rise from $25,000 to $50,000.

In 2014, an investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found that nearly three-quarters of Airbnb’s private New York City bookings over a four-year period were illegal rentals.

“Landlords in my district are pressuring tenants to move out so they can turn affordable housing into illegal hotel rooms,” said Manhattan City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents Washington Heights and co-sponsored the legislation with fellow member Helen Rosenthal.

Sources: New York Daily News (1), New York Daily News (2) / Photo Source: New York Daily News