Sick of transient types traipsing through your apartment halls? Complaints of illegal hotels at a recent City Council hearing would suggest you’re not alone, and if Council Member Ben Kallos has his way New Yorkers will soon be able to report suspicious apartments with a tap of their Smartphones.
“The process by which the NYC Office of Special Enforcement targets, fines and eventually helps shut down illegal hotels is primarily driven by 311 complaints,” Kallos wrote in a letter addressed to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications this morning. He’s asking for the city to modify its 311 mobile app to make it easier for the public to report illegal hotels, including apartments being rented illegally on Airbnb.com.
Technically renters are breaking State law if they rent out their one-bedroom apartment for a week while they’re on vacation — the logic being that if you only have a one-bedroom apartment, and you’re renting it out, you could possibly be living elsewhere and using the apartment for Airbnb guests exclusively.
As of now, the 311 app allows users to report twenty different complaints at the touch of a button, but to report suspicion of illegal short-term rentals or hotels, concerned residents still have to call or submit a modified report. Kallos believes adding an “illegal hotel” complaint option to the app “would likely result in an increase in complaints filed and potentially more investigations.” In the last year alone there were 1,150 illegal hotel complaints filed with 311.
Kallos also calls for greater transparency in complaint resolution on the city’s open data portal. Adding additional data points to the status of a 311 complaint, such as how it was addressed and whether it was resolved, would increase OSE accountability in the handling of public grievances, he said.
These requests come on the tail of two large fires earlier this winter in illegal Hell’s Kitchen hotels owned by the oft-cited Highpoint Associates VII LLC. “When people’s lives are literally on the line,” Kallos urged, “our residents deserve nothing less.”
The council member’s letter, which you can read below, concludes with a plea to protect both the safety and affordability of New York’s neighborhoods – the latter petition likely a reference to one of the latest gripes against AirBnB, which blames the rental service for Brooklyn’s affordable housing crisis.