Monday, June 05, 2017

Despite Continuous, Uninterrupted Use Of 2-Bedroom Rent-Stabilized NYC Apartment As Primary Residence, 70-Year Old Woman To Get The Boot From Home Of 43 Years For Pocketing In Excess Of Allowable Amount By Using One Bedroom As Airbnb Sharing Deal

In New York City, the New York Daily News reports:
  • An elderly woman recovering from breast cancer can be evicted from her rent-stabilized apartment in Greenwich Village because she made a hefty profit through Airbnb, appeals judges ruled Tuesday [May 23].

    “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have that long to be here,” said Linda Lipetz, 70. “I’m going to lose all my medical. If I don’t have an address, I’ll never be able to get anything. I’m going to wind up in a homeless shelter,” she added.

    Lipetz, 70, began searching for a roommate for her two-bedroom apartment at 39 Fifth Ave. in 2010, after she was diagnosed with the disease and lost her job.

    The former fashion and interior designer said she needed a roomie to help her keep her apartment of 43 years, which she rents for $1,758 per month.

    Lipetz charged $95 per night for one person and $120 for couples. For 338 days over 18 months, Lipetz had at least one Airbnb guest, earning her $33,592, according to the ruling by a mid-level appeals court.

    She "continued to use the apartment as her primary residence, and cooked meals for each guest," Justice Ellen Gesmer wrote in a dissent. "Each guest shared the entire apartment with her, including the one bathroom and unlimited use of the kitchen. They even watched TV together."

    “I think it's a crime against people ...” Lipetz said of the ruling. “... It’s outrageous what’s going on, how America treats their seniors and disabled. It’s a crime what they’re doing to people. It’s a crime.”

    Nevertheless, landlord Shari Lynn Goldstein moved to evict Lipetz in 2012, alleging she was unlawfully profiting off of her apartment.

    Three out of five judges in Manhattan's Appellate Division First Department agreed, ruling that the amount of money Lipetz earned was enough to void her lease and get her evicted.

    "I'm devastated," Lipetz said. "I have no place to go. I'll be out on the street."

    The law allows a rent-stabilized tenant to sublease an apartment for no more than a 10% premium. But Lipetz's own rent per day was $57.80 — meaning she turned a 72% profit, the judges found.

    "We are mindful of the fact that defendant's age and health status naturally evoke sympathy," Justice Peter Tom wrote for the majority. "However, it is simply undeniable that…she exploited the governmentally-conferred privilege of her rent-stabilized tenancy to take financial profits unavailable to her landlord."

    Howard Grun, an attorney for the landlord, said the ruling had broader legal significance. "It puts to rest whole notion these transient occupants who come through Airbnb are roommates," he said. "That's crucial."

    Lipetz's attorney, Fred Seeman, said an appeal was likely but that he needed to speak to his client.

    He said Lipetz had not hidden her Airbnb operation, and stopped once she was told to. The landlord will sell the apartment for millions once Lipetz is gone, he said.

    "She'll just be another statistic in the toll of gentrification in the city," Seeman said.

    An Airbnb spokesman said the company believes "regulations should be in place that prevent profiteering off rent stabilized units while allowing New Yorkers to share their own homes to pay their rent or medical bills and age in place."

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