Skift Take

Given NYC's tepid pace of approving host registrations of shared spaces, the most prevalent choices now on major short-term rental platforms are illegal listings and hotels.

Looking for a short-term rental stay via Airbnb, Vrbo or Booking.com in New York City for the Thanksgiving holiday? One week after the city implemented tough host registration requirements, you can expect to see listings that violate the rules, more hotels, and stays in New Jersey.

Skift examined the first 10 listings each on Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking.com for a November 22-26 NYC short-term rental stay for four adults.

New York’s rules say there can’t be more than two guests, so we shouldn’t see apartment listings after a search for four nights and four guests unless the listing is a hotel or outside the city. What’s more, hosts must be present in shared spaces, so listings should reflect that rule. On the other hand, we’d expect to see properties with hotel licenses and nearby locations unaffected by the rules.

Here’s what our search turned up:

  • Airbnb showed six entire apartments that seemed to violate the rules because of those host and guest rules. It also showed apartments in Union City and West New York, New Jersey, and two hotel listings.
  • Expedia’s Vrbo displayed nine hotels, including five from Sonder and four from property manager Room Picks Accommodations. It showed one house in Queens that seemed to violate the rules because whole homes are limited to stays of at least 30 days.
  • Booking.com offered seven hotels, including from property manager Placemakr, Wyndham, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott, and The Muse. It showed three entire apartments that would seem to violate host and guest rules.

One of Airbnb’s results – Nomad’s $363 per night “studio” – reassured potential guests that it was in compliance: “Our apartment is inside a Class B hotel that’s a certified mixed use apartment building meaning your short-term stay is absolutely legal unlike other Airbnb apartments in NYC.”

Airbnb attributed its problematic listings to the lack of functionality of New York City’s digital host verification system, which is shared with the major platforms to identify unregistered hosts. Skift reported last week that sources close to the platforms claimed it wasn’t working but the city’s Office of Special Enforcement told Skift that it went live on September 5.

Airbnb said Monday that once the system is truly functional, Airbnb would be better able to prevent listings that violate the rules from being published.

When Skift told Vrbo about a seemingly illegal listing Monday, the company said it would remove it.

It’s an ironic development to see so many hotel listings. For many years, there was debate about whether Airbnb, in particular, as well as Vrbo, would get more heavily into hotel listings to supplement their short-term rental and vacation rental listings.

We asked Sonder if it stands to benefit from the proliferation of its listings and its enhanced visibility in NYC. Many of Sonder’s properties have hotel licenses, which bypass the city’s new short-term rental rules, although globally the majority are still short-term rental properties.

“All of our properties in NYC are compliant but we don’t have anything further to share right now,” a Sonder spokesperson said.

This snapshot of listings that we found in the past two days will change as the platforms prune illegal listings, and the city registers more hosts, although these approvals will be for shared spaces only, a maximum of two guests and stays of fewer than 30 days.

Meanwhile, among the seemingly legal listings within the five boroughs of New York City, there were sporadic bargains. We saw a rate of $294 per night before taxes for our group of four in Queens at a Sonder “hotel.” On the other hand, we also viewed Sonder at One Platt near Wall Street for $909 nightly.

A search of Airbnb on the same dates, but for just two guests, which is the legal limit, turned up a mix of listings that would be legal (if the hosts are registered), outside the city, or seemingly against the rules.

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Tags: airbnb, booking.com, expedia, future of lodging, guests, hosts, nyc, online travel newsletter, OSE, regulations, vacation rentals, vrbo

Photo credit: Chambers New York City is part of Sonder's new Powered by Sonder collection. Source: Sonder

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