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City Council Considers New Rules For Airbnb

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The New York City Council is considering a trio of bills taking on Airbnb.

Proposed legislation aims to rein in landlords who evict tenants in favor of Airbnb renters.

The current fine for renting out an apartment for fewer than 30 days without an owner present is $1,600.

The proposal by City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-6th) would increase that penalty to between $10,000 and $50,000, WCBS 880's Ginny Kosola reported.

"You're living in what you thought was a residential community in your building, but now you have a revolving door of suitcases going in and out next door to you, disturbing your quality of life," Rosenthal told 1010 WINS. "So the law exists for a reason, it's illegal to rent out your apartment."

Rosenthal said landlords on the Upper West Side are tossing out tenants and renting out the apartments at a high, daily Airbnb rate.

The law does not apply to owners of single- and two-family homes.

Airbnb is firing back in a YouTube video featuring five hosts.

"I invite any member of the City Council to come and stay in my beautiful house, and experience a little bit of family hospitality," one host says in the video.

Sharon Petty rents her place to tourists.

"Probably 80 percent of the people who do come -- because I do rent an entire floor -- are actually families," she said.

But many New Yorkers would also love to see fines go up for greedy landlords who squeeze the already tight housing market by renting apartments for days instead of months, CBS2's Sonia Rincon reported.

Tom Cayler said he lived in a building that began to feel like a hotel.

"Your basic safety is based on the fact that you come home at night and you see your neighbors, not people with suitcases," he said.

"These landlords rent out 20 units at a time in one building and maybe 20 units in a time in another building, and it's the same landlord doing it. So that's who we're really going after," said Rosenthal.

At the hearing, Rosenthal and other councilmembers grilled an Airbnb representative.

"What I'd like you guys to do is give us some of your data, so we know who it is we're dealing with. This is not data," said Rosenthal.

"You're providing nothing," said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-45th).

Airbnb has plenty of fans, but the bill's sponsors said the people who would come to the pro-Airbnb rally on Friday and publicly support the company aren't the ones who are creating illegal hotels or would face those steep fines.

Airbnb's Christopher Lehane insisted his company doesn't want to facilitate illegal rentals.

"We very much welcome working with the city to address those situations," he said.

But Councilman Williams doesn't buy it, saying he was reminded of the martian invasion from "Mars Attacks."

"While they were shooting the people, they were screaming 'I come in peace, I come in peace,' and continue to shoot people. It reminds me of that movie because you continue saying we're here to help, and do nothing," he said.

Another bill, sponsored by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-10th), would require the Department of Buildings to report on Airbnb every year.

Councilman Mark Levine (D-7th) is also sponsoring a bill that would inform tenants they may not be required to pay rent if their landlord is breaking the law by converting apartment to run illegal hotels.

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