NYC cracks down on “illegal hotels”

NYHTC — June 07, 2011

Under a new state law effective May 1, New York City has started cracking down on owners who operate their residential buildings as "illegal hotels". Such owners reap economic windfalls by renting space in residential buildings not licensed for transient use to tourists. Often, unsuspecting visitors are crammed into accommodations fraught with dangerous hazards including numerous fire and building code violations.



Inadequacies in the old law had resulted in an escalating number of these unsafe places, commonly, but misleadingly, referred to as "illegal hotels." They are not hotels at all, are not licensed as such, and have been chronic sources of concern because their existence creates a variety of safety risks.

New York State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Representative Richard Gottfried became increasingly concerned about the safety of both the long- and short-term occupants of such buildings. They responded by sponsoring bills in their respective chambers to clarify the old law. The new language enhances the ability of city authorities to penalize owners who have converted their buildings to this type of illegal use.

Property owners reluctant to see their lucrative but illegal sideline end filed suit to block enforcement of the law. On April 30, United States District Court Judge Richard Sullivan refused to grant the injunction they sought, and the law went into effect on May 1 as scheduled.

Shortly thereafter, inspectors from the New York City Office of Special Enforcement started conducting inspections of properties, many of which had already been the subject of complaints by the long-term tenants who resided in the buildings. People willing to risk their safety by staying in one of these places should consider what the initial round of sweeps produced, the results of which were released by Mayor Bloomberg on May 15.

Full vacate orders were issued to four buildings, two in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn, while four more buildings, all in Manhattan, were served with partial vacate orders. Conditions identified in buildings issued full vacate orders included overcrowding (three-family homes occupied by 44-45 people), inadequate egress, no or inadequate sprinkler or alarm systems, and combustible materials throughout the buildings. In addition to the full or partial vacate orders issued eight buildings, an additional seven buildings were issued violation notices. Penalties for violations range from $800 to $2,500 per violation.

The new law is supported by the New York Hotel Trades Council, the Hotel Association of the City of New York, and NYC & Company, New York City's official tourism agency.

Press Release: Mayor Bloomberg announces results of recent crackdown on dangerous illegal hotels. Office of the Mayor/News and Press Releases. May 15, 2011.

Duane, Thomas K., New York State Senator. Blog: Marking the Implementation of the Illegal Hotels Law. New York Senate Homepage of Thomas K. Duane. May 2, 2011.

Fickenscher, Lisa. Law cracks down on hotels in residential buildings. Crain's New York. April 28, 2011.