Beware, landlords who ignore city laws against Airbnb subleasing.
In a first-of-its-kind decision, a Manhattan judge Thursday ordered that an independent manager take over two Midtown properties where the owner has allegedly continued to sublease apartments on Airbnb — flouting multiple citations and an injunction ordering him to stop.
The state-court decision calls the two properties — at 334 W. 46th St. and 15 W. 55th St. — “public nuisances” and orders that an independent manager be brought in as receiver.
Immediately after the decision, the properties’ owner, Salim Assa, marched his lawyers uptown to the state Appellate Division, winning an emergency stay that will forestall any appointment of an independent manager until an appeal is hashed out.
Still, the city hailed the lower court decision, by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James E. d’Auguste, as a victory.
“This decision should serve as a warning that the City does not limit its enforcement efforts to issuing violations,” said Catherine Wan, Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement.”
Between October 2013 and February 2015, the city Department of Buildings issued some 100 notices of violations to Assa, citing him for ignoring building and fire codes by running the properties as short-term hotels.
Thursday’s Manhattan Supreme Court decision is the latest action in a nuisance-abatement lawsuit filed by the city against Assa back in February 2015.
A preliminary injunction barring the properties’ use as short-term hotels had been agreed on in March 2016, but Assa continued subleasing anyway, city lawyers contended. City DOB inspectors caught Assa red-handed, the lawyers said.
In his decision, Justice d’Auguste wrote, “It appears that despite receiving over one hundred building and fire violations, criminal court summonses regarding the illegal use and occupancy of the properties, being sued by the City in the instant action, and being enjoined from using the properties as illegal short-term hotels pursuant to the preliminary injunction in place, the Owner Defendants have taken minimal steps to remedy the alleged illegal use and occupancy.”
The judge appointed Manhattan attorney Darren R. Marks as receiver of the two properties; if Thursday’s decision is upheld on appeal, Marks would be authorized to run the buildings, including collecting rents.
“We believe the law to be on our side. We will continue to defend our hard fought Supreme Court victory to put in place a receivership at these buildings,” said Alexander Schnell, spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement.
Defendant attorney Anthony Genovesi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.