Brookfield cracks down on illegal Airbnb operators

A photo illustration of The Olivia at 315 West 33rd Street (Brookfield Properties, Getty Images)

Brookfield Properties is trying to clear a house in a Midtown West apartment building after finding what it describes as an illegal Airbnb operation.

The landlord sued five tenants of The Olivia, the Commercial Observer reported, claiming they had rented nine apartments on the short-stay platform. While Brookfield tried to evict these tenants from the 333-unit building at 315 West 33rd Street, the lawsuit aims to evict those who refused to leave.

Brookfield said the operation began in 2020, according to a lawsuit filed in New York County Supreme Court. The owner didn’t learn of it until the following year, when smart lock company Latch showed strangers entering and leaving the unit for short stays, usually prohibited by state law.

Tenants complained of noise and smoke from units and strangers walking around after being locked out of their apartment, according to the complaint.

Last August, Brookfield served Mei Ru and Rui Wang with an eviction notice, which they only complied with after the matter went to court. But court records say the couple brought three other residents into the fold, some of whom refused to leave, despite eviction notices.

An Airbnb listing for an apartment in the building costs $528 per night. Rental units at The Olivia typically range between $4,100 and $8,000 per month.

Brookfield is seeking to bar the five tenants from renting apartments in the building, along with $70,000 in back rent and legal fees. The money could help the owner if he is fined by the city, which is cracking down on illegal Airbnbs.

Housing advocates have been calling for action from the city for years to prevent apartments from being used for short-term rentals. Lawsuits against some arrangements came as record prices and low inventory deepened the city’s affordable housing crisis in the wake of the pandemic.

In July, the city sued real estate broker Arron Latimer, accused of running an illegal $2 million short-term rental operation at six buildings in the city.

The city has a short-term rental registration program that will go into effect in January. The law is designed to prevent platforms such as Airbnb from processing transactions unless the registration information matches a city database.

Brookfield Premier Real Estate Partners has agreed to purchase the mixed-use building on West 33rd Street in 2020 from SL Green for $446.5 million. The property is 36 stories high and includes 270,000 square feet of retail space.

—Holden Walter-Warner

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