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Trump Tower Condo Owner Fined $1,000 for Listing Apartment on Airbnb

By Noah Hurowitz | March 27, 2017 2:20pm
 A woman who advertised her Trump Tower apartment on Airbnb could pay as much as $1,000 for the illegal listing, officials said.
A woman who advertised her Trump Tower apartment on Airbnb could pay as much as $1,000 for the illegal listing, officials said.
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MIDTOWN —  A woman accused of illegally listing her Trump Tower pad on Airbnb could pay as much as $1,000 for violating city and state laws regulating apartment rentals, officials said.

Yelena Yelagina was slapped with a civil summons when the city determined she broke the law by listing her 30th floor apartment in Trump Tower on Airbnb, according to Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the de Blasio administration.

Grace reiterated the city’s pledge to root out those who flout rental laws.

“We will continue to crack down on those who profit by turning permanent housing into de facto hotel rooms,” she said Monday in a statement.

Yelagina advertised the apartment on Airbnb for between $300 and $450 per night, according to a report in the New York Times, which first exposed the listing and reported the summons.

She made no explicit mention of the apartment being inside the glass tower that's home to the president's family and his former headquarters at 721 Fifth Ave., but photos — and a stipulation that guests would have to go through Secret Service screening each time they entered the building — made the apartment’s location clear according to the report.

Yelagina has owned the unit for about 15 years, according to an affidavit.

A Times reporter made plans to reserve the apartment, but Yelagina canceled when she realized her would-be guest was a journalist. She later removed the listing altogether, according to the report.

Now, Yelagina is scheduled to go before a civil court on charges of flouting the city’s rental laws, which prohibit the rental of an apartment for less than 30 days if the owner is not present. The 2010 measure intended to prevent units from being used as makeshift hotels.

The summons was issued on March 1, nearly a week before the Times published its first story on the listing, but in an affidavit filed with the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, or OATH, the inspector tasked with serving the ticket describes the hoops he had to jump through to track down the elusive Airbnb-er.

The first two attempts to serve the summons at Yelagina’s Trump Tower apartment, on March 1 and March 8, failed because she wasn’t home, and a visit on March 20 to an Eighth Avenue flower business owned by Yelagina was equally futile, according to the affidavit. 

Finally, after a worker at Yelagina’s business said she only dropped by periodically, the inspector headed back to Trump Tower and officially served the summons to a doorman, as well as mailing the summons to Yelagina, he wrote in the affidavit.

The hearing, before the OATH trials division, is scheduled for March 30.

Several calls for comment to her apartment in Trump Tower went unanswered Monday.

The summons is the latest episode in the city's fight against Airbnb, which has been accused of contributing to the housing crisis and has drawn the ire of the city's powerful hotel lobby.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year signed into law a bill that made it illegal to list an illegally rented apartment, and after pushback by Airbnb, the city began enforcing the law in February.

Since then, the city has issued 65 summonses to nine operators, including Yelagina, according to the Times.

Peter Schottenfels, a spokesman for Airbnb, did not respond to the specifics of the summons against Yelagina, saying only that there are now no listings inside Trump Tower.

"This particular listing was removed," he said in an email. 

He added, "The current law groups responsible New Yorkers who occasionally share their own home with actual illegal hotels and our goal is to change the law."