A red brick townhouse in Astoria, New York, was inspected by city officials in May. Rather than three separate apartments as it appeared on plans, the building had been illegally converted into 12 rooms, offering 24 beds for nightly rental.
More than 2,600 guests had booked a stay there through Airbnb, earning its host over $210,000. This was part of a network of illegally converted dangerous and unsanitary residential units in 36 buildings earning more than $5 million in revenue over four years.
New York City prohibits renting an entire apartment or home for fewer than 30 days if the owner is not there, while short-term rentals are limited to no more than two guests.
The fire department found a gas leak, some guests had to be released from a locked apartment and the illegally constructed extra rooms lacked basic safety measures such as fire exits, sprinklers, and fire alarms. To make it even harder to trace, the listings publicly gave false locations, with the correct details sent to renters only after full payment.