Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NYC May Be Doing Away With Short-Term Rentals For Visitors: What You Should Do If You're Planning to Visit the Big Apple in the Next Six Months

I've seen it happen in Las Vegas. I've seen it happen in Maui County (Hawaii). And now, it seems, New York City is about to make the same mistake. As in those areas, local government is planning to eliminate short-term rentals, kowtowing, no doubt, to the powerful hotel lobby (and I mean "political lobby", not the place where you wait to check-in). The New York State Senate is currently considering a new regulation which will make it illegal for private owners and renters to rent out their homes to short-term visitors for periods of less than 30 days.

Looking at the other two destinations, here's what I'm predicting will be the outcome of this foolish move.

Rising prices, decreased capacity: Maui County consists not only of the island of Maui, but also of Molokai and Lanai. There's no shortage of  lodgings on Maui, but the other two islands have relatively little and the ban on  short term rentals literally meant the islands had to turn away tourists--there was nowhere for them to sleep. That in turn hurt local restaurants, stores, tour companies and many other businesses. As well, prices rose, as the stock of lodging decreased after the regulation.

While I doubt there will be a lack of housing for visitors in hotel-laden New York City, there  won't be enough at the bottom end of the price-scale. Affordable, well-maintained hotels are few and far between in the Big Apple. Without the options of rentals (almost always cheaper than hotels), visitors will have far fewer options; and the cheaper hotels, with less competition, will raise their prices. The outcome:  more tourists will opt to stay in nearby New Jersey (uggh--commuting on vacation!); and those businesses that rely on budget travelers--small delis, cheaper restaurants, discount stores of all sorts--will suffer.

A less-regulated, underground economy for rentals: One of the reasons the New York State government has said it will undertake the ban is to stop visitors from being scammed by unscrupulous renters or con men posing as renters. Problem is, the law will have the opposite effect.

Currently, New York City is blessed with a number of reputable, well-established businesses that help visitors find apartments to rent (see below), shielding their customers from harm. If the law is passed, these organizations will go out of business and the situation will be akin to what we find in Las Vegas, which has only a black market of condo rentals. The activity is  totally unregulated.Those visitors who get taken have little recourse for would-be renters who get taken. There have been some problems with visitors coming to NYC, and being scammed on CraigsList. Those visitors, however, who deal with legitimate agencies rarely have problems.

Here's my advice, based on the assumption that the law will pass:

  • If you want to rent an apartment, do it now: You should be fine if you make your reservation before the law is changed. That's because these companies simply act as middlemen between you and the homeowner you'll be renting from. Be sure to get all the information on your rental before you give your deposit. Use a reputable company such as Affordable New York City, City Sonnet or New York Habitat.  
  • Also book soon if you're considering a hotel stay: Try such aggregator sites as and to search for the best deals.
  • If you can't afford Manhattan, look to one of the other boroughs. Brooklyn and Queens in particular are more pleasant and character-filled than the New Jersey communities within commuting distance of New York (better restaurants, too). You can find outer borough hotels fully reviewed in many guidebooks, including mine (Pauline Frommer's New York City). Avoid the hotels that are near airports, however, as those tend to be really grungy. I'd also avoid Staten Island as the commute will be tough. 

I write this post with a sad heart. I'm hoping the law won't pass but it seems like its being rammed through quickly. If you have friends in New York City, urge them to write to their State Senators urging them to vote against the measure.

(Photo by Tony)

No comments:

Post a Comment