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Tourists flock to Queens for beds rented in homes

Rooms-for-rent website draws scrutiny from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Photo courtesy Peter Scoffenfels
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The house-sharing website Airbnb is a growing economic force in Queens, based on research done by Manhattan-based real estate consultant HR&A Advisors.

The study showed that Airbnb generated $12 million in Queens last year alone. The analysis shows that 680 hosts in Queens lodged 16,200 guests in their homes, earning $4 million while visitors spent $7 million with businesses throughout the borough.

“Airbnb is helping Queens residents pay their bills and pursue their dreams while giving travelers a new, authentic way to experience New York City by staying in different neighborho­ods,” company CEO Brian Chesky said.

Flushing resident Linda Landivar has been using the service for two years, renting two rooms in her two-family house to more than 200 guests during that period.

“My husband Robert and I are 3-D freelancers in advertising and we’ve both been out of work since December,” she said. “I get $50 a night for one room and $65 a night for a bigger room next to the bathroom. It really helps pay the bills.”

Landivar took over as a caretaker of the house when her father retired to Florida.

“He’d stay here for a few months every year, but the rest of the time the room was empty,” she said.

Landivar tried the six-year-old service that connects hosts with guests for short-term apartment rentals and had a guest stay in her house the first week.

“We’ve had pilots who need a rest between flights, European travelers stay here a lot and we’ve had out-of-town travelers who have spent the night after missing their flight at LaGuardia,” Landivar said. “I’ve never had a serious problem with a guest.”

The tech firm may have a problem in New York where state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena to Airbnb in October, requesting information on New York City’s 15,000 hosts and 25,000 listings. City laws make it illegal for a room or apartment to be rented out for under 30 days without a tenant present, Schneiderman wrote in the subpoena. There is also an issue with the city’s hotel tax that requires 14 percent of a hotel’s fees.

David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of global public policy, said, “The attorney general subpoenaed almost all of our hosts’ user data. We protested that demand in court, and now thousands of people have signed a petition demanding a new, better law in New York.”

Hantman speculated that the AG was after those hosts that abuse Airbnb’s platforms like illegal hotel operators and slumlords.

Schneiderman’s office would not comment on the investigation.

Rob MacKay, director of the Queens Tourism Council, has some questions of his own about Airbnb.

“There’s a lot of gray areas, a lot of uncharted water where people on both sides could come away unhappy with the experience,” MacKay said. “Travelers who stay in hotels have their rights. There are a lot of risks to both the host and the guest. What if there are bedbugs or lice in the sheets. Who’s liable?”

MacKay also added the specter of public safety to the discussion.

“What happens when you rent to a guest who turns out to be a serial killer. Who’s liable there?” he asked.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail ay bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 4:23 pm, February 20, 2014
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Reader feedback

anon from queens says:
How safe is it though to open your house up to strangers? Wait until someone gets murdered then people will see the real danger of it.
Feb. 20, 2014, 6:40 am
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
We already have this in Queens, it is called ILLEGAL APARTMENTS and it has been going on for years.

http://cleanupjamaicaqueens.wordpress.com/
Feb. 20, 2014, 7:03 am
Fumigate from Queens says:
Now we know where to find the bed bugs, I guess they could not get enough of them at airport hotels.
Feb. 20, 2014, 1:08 pm
Landivar from Flushing says:
Sure there are a lot of bad hosts and illegal hostels out there, but don't judge all of us with the same contempt able finger. My rentals are a guest room in my apartment and I share my home as if they were family or friends. Short of making breakfast, it's like a real B&B. As for renting to serial killers, I haven't met any that I know of. As a landlord, you can rent an apartment to serial killers. For that matter, you could date a serial killer and never even know it. I invite any one of you sceptics to check out my profile, or better yet, come stay at my house and let my family and I show you some true hospitality.
Feb. 20, 2014, 3:28 pm
Like a B&B from Queens says:
Are you a licensed, inspected hotel. Do you pay taxes on your rental income. Or are you another cheater.
Feb. 20, 2014, 3:38 pm
Landivar from Flushing says:
Hello, I am happy to answer your questions, and thank you for your interest. Airbnb does not require a hotel license as of now. As for inspected, what would you have me be inspected for? This is my home that I live in everyday. I care if my home is safe. I care if there is a parasite infestation in my home. Not for the sake of my guests as much as for the sake of my family. I offer my guests the same safe and clean environment that I would like to live in. Taxes, yes, the company reports all your earnings to the government, as well as taking their fee. I am taxed for all my earnings. I am proud to bring tourists to Queens and especially to Flushing. I have improved business for many of my favorite restaurants. The more happy guests I have writing good reviews, the more money keeps coming to Queens. I was born here. I care about my neighborhood. Thank you for your inquiry.
Feb. 20, 2014, 3:52 pm
What about perverts? from College Point says:
What if you rent to a sex predator who isn't supposed to be living near schools or little kids? He could be in town for a Nambla convention.
Feb. 22, 2014, 8:35 am
What about perverts? from College Point says:
Lady, are you paying taxes or just raking in the cash?

What if the guy needs a clear line of sight to your neighbor who he has been stalking?

Maybe Ted Bundy just needed to hop over your fence to get to the nurses.
Feb. 22, 2014, 8:37 am
Landivar from Flushing says:
@Pervert - I guess you didn't read my comment where it clearly stated that all earnings are reported to the government and taxed. Secondly, if a sexual predator wanted to come near a school, he wouldn't need to spend the night at my house to do so. I believe there is a motel on Kissena Blvd, closer to my old public school than where I live. Do you write hateful comments to all motels, inns, and hotels as well? Do you believe these three establishments do background checks on their guests? I can assure you that I know more about my guests then any hotel does. Paranoia is a serious mental illness.
Feb. 22, 2014, 8:28 pm
Landivar from Flushing says:
I encourage the sceptics to go to the website and create an account. It asks for verification with a real phone number and email address as well as credit card information. As a host, I have the option of not renting to anyone who I feel unsure of. Again, this is my home. I would not let someone I felt unsure of in my home. Thank you for your interest.
Feb. 22, 2014, 8:31 pm

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