This week, in a record setting judgement, a Manhattan judge booted an artist from her $1,500-a-month Tribeca apartment and has fined her $185,000 for illegally renting it out on Airbnb. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Nancy Bannon authorized a city sheriff to “take all necessary steps . . . to effect the removal and ejection of Eileen Hickey . . . from said premises at 460 Greenwich St.”
Hickey, 72, is an artist whose work is displayed in a downtown gallery and has appeared in “Eat Pray Love” and other films. As reported by the NY Post, she was first sued by the building owner in 2014 for illegally subletting her rent-stabilized 2-bedroom home of 43 years. As per the suit, the landlord alleges Hickey sublet her 1,400 square-foot apartment, which spans the entire fourth floor, charging about $4,500 a month to Airbnb guests from Spain, California and New Orleans. Landlord Robert Moskowitz was alerted to the subletting when a Spanish sublet tenant hung a banner welcoming friends from the unit’s fire escape.
The judge found Hickey guilty in violation of The Rent Stabilization Code which bans tenants from turning a profit off below-market-rate lofts, and the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law, which bars tenants from renting out their apartments for fewer than 30 days at a stretch. She must vacate the apartment by June 9th. The $185,000 fine covers the landlord’s legal fees plus a penalty for violating the Rent Stabilization Code.
In her defense, Hickey says “I used Airbnb starting in September 2012 for a total of 85 nights over 10 months to help pay the bills in a brief family emergency, not to earn a living.” She says she earned a total of $14,000 from the Airbnb venture. She lost the case, however, after repeatedly failing to turn over court-ordered documents, including bank and credit-card statements. “To have no place to go at age 72 is quite horrible,” Hickey lamented after the court order. She admittedly also owns an East Village condo, which she says she uses as an office.
Industry experts say the judge issued the highest known penalty, in the history of the United States, for an individual Airbnb host illegally renting out a single property. The city of New York has previously fined large-scale Airbnb operators, who list multiple units on the home-sharing website, over $1 million.
By: Hadassa Kalatizadeh