Could You Be Evicted for Being an Airbnb Host?

Could You Be Evicted for Being an Airbnb Host?

Jennifer Hunter
Mar 20, 2014
(Image credit: Dom Cordilla)

Yesterday we told you about Ari Teman, the Manhattan man and Airbnb host who got an un-sexy surprise when he unknowingly hosted a "XXX Freak Fest" in his apartment last weekend. Well, now we hear that his tenancy in his apartment may be short-lived and not by choice. So we're wondering: can you be evicted for acting as an Airbnb host? We investigate.

The problem seems to come down to two things: the language of the lease and the landlord's annoyance at their tenants' profiting from their property.

In the pre-Airbnb era, standard lease clauses prohibiting sub-leasing may not have worried tenants who didn't plan on re-renting their pads long term. But in an increasing number of cases, landlords are interpreting the practice of peer-to-peer rentals as sub-leasing (even if the original renter of the apartment is present and simply renting out an extra room) and using it as means for eviction.

So, just what is the difference between renting an extra room to several different people on Airbnb and simply finding a roommate on a more permanent basis? Some landlords say security. That guests trooping in and out of a building isn't safe for the other tenants.

That was certainly the case with Ari Teman. Although not his intention, his involvement with Airbnb absolutely did produce an unsafe situation for everyone in his building. But neither was it the fault of Airbnb, as they were merely the service providing Teman the means by which to rent his place. They verify both parties and use reviews to try and prevent negative situations, but no one can provide total control when bringing strangers together —there's always the potential for things to go awry.

This SF Gate article says that in San Francisco landlords are actually angry about the money their tenants are making. Delene Wolf, executive director of the San Francisco Rent Board says, "It makes them crazy: They're rent controlled, and the tenant is making more off their property than they can make."

So it stands to reason that if a rent-controlled tenant is violating part of their lease, even a stipulation that hasn't been previously enforced, an annoyed landlord may seize the opportunity to evict him/her.

Back in 2012 in New York, Fast Company editor Chris Dannen was also caught on the wrong side of his rental agreement — he was served with a restraining order when his landlord discovered his Brooklyn Airbnb listing. His situation only required him to stop hosting and barred him from having any future roommates, which he points out, "in the pricey New York rental market is tantamount to eviction." But his landlord, it seems, was equally hip to Airbnb's profit potential because he transformed another nearby building into a hotel and advertised — where else? — on Airbnb. See what else he learned about his rental biz at Fast Company.

In fact, the upswing in short-stay vacation sites is leading many landlords to include specific language barring their tenants from participating.

So what's the lesson here? Check your lease, follow the rules and don't assume that you're gonna fly under the radar forever.

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