Anyone who wants to stay a few nights in a city like New York knows that the cost isn’t cheap, and that’s why a service like Airbnb can come in handy, though the company has recently been embroiled in anti-Semitism scandals. The next time someone wants to find a good deal on an Airbnb in the city for a night or two, that person may want to think about how the rental may not even be legal.
By: Alexandra Jannis
The New York Times uncovered a story about two apartments in a TriBeCa building where many tourists would stay that were actually part of a real estate scheme. Renters would be charged $600 a night, with the target clientele being tourist groups that needed to find good value. These apartments were not only cheap for large groups but had the extra enticement of being in one of the city’s most desired neighborhoods.
The Greenwich Street apartments were used as a means of bringing in $20 million of revenue on what was essentially a business that went around numerous laws, state and locally. The scheme was even in violation of the rules set forth by Airbnb for its users. Over the course of the scheme, 130 apartments wound up being used for rentals that nearly 76,000 guests took advantage of, according to city officials.
The scheme fit right into a problem that opponents of Airbnb, especially the hotel lobby, have been warning about. While it’s less likely that Airbnb rentals would be used as a means of plotting a terrorist attack, worries about the company being a way for people to effectively run an unlicensed hotel business appear to be substantiated. By not being subject to the normal regulations and taxes that hotels have to adhere to, people can turn ordinary apartments into money machines.
There was an attempted crackdown in January that was meant to reign in some of these potentially illegal Airbnb practices. In public, Airbnb denounces people using the platform for nefarious and illegal purposes. The New York Times explained that this illegal activity normally amounts to a civil offense and fines, but a lawsuit, as is the case with this illegal scheme, means that the whole situation was especially bad. The city wants $20 million from the defendants.
At the center of the scheme was Max Beckman, 35, a former real estate broker, according to the lawsuit. Mr. Beckman, who moved to the United States 18 years ago from Israel, was one of five people accused. There has not been a verdict, and the case is continuing.
Mr. Beckman agreed to be interviewed, making clear that he believed that he did nothing wrong.
Max Beckman, a 35-year-old Israeli who immigrated to the United States, was one of the five people involved in the alleged scheme.
He told the New York Times that “we’re not criminals.” He added that he doesn’t “own a yacht or a big penthouse.”
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