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Bed-Stuy Landlord Hit With Heavy Fines for Hosting Dozens of Airbnb Guests

By Noah Hurowitz | October 25, 2017 6:20pm
 The owner of 381 Nostrand Ave. was hit with more than $100,000 in fines this month after failing to heed a vacate order issued for illegaly hosting dozens of Airbnb guests, records show.
The owner of 381 Nostrand Ave. was hit with more than $100,000 in fines this month after failing to heed a vacate order issued for illegaly hosting dozens of Airbnb guests, records show.
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DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A Brooklyn landlord, who crammed dozens of Airbnb guests into an illegally converted Nostrand Avenue townhouse, is facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines after ignoring city orders to put a stop to the scheme, according to officials and public records.

Investigators have issued a partial vacate notice at 381 Nostrand Ave. at Monroe Street after the owner, Pearl Chan, ignored a citation from the city in September for illegally running a makeshift Airbnb hostel out of the three-story townhouse and was caught with a group of 11 guests from India.

Chan, who has properties in Brooklyn and Long Island, could pay a total of $116,200 in fines for the citations, which started racking up after investigators found more than two dozen guests staying in the building.

The busts came as part of a larger crackdown on illegal hotels in the city, which officials say is aimed at protecting the safety of guests and stopping short-term rentals that can help contribute to the city’s housing crisis.

“Turning these apartments into illegal Airbnb hotels that were unsafe for the tenants and the surrounding Bed-Stuy community ultimately turned into a bad investment for this real estate speculator,“ said Christian Klossner, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. “The city will continue to protect its housing stock for New York families.”

During the first inspection on Sept. 7, investigators found a group of 14 Estonian guests staying in one apartment on the third floor and part of the second, a German couple in another apartment, and another eight Estonians in the cellar apartment, along with a family of five that had left the place minutes before inspectors arrived, according to a City Hall spokesman.

The 14 Estonians were paying a lump sum of $380 for one night, and the Germans were shelling out just $65 per night for their five-night stay, a city spokesman said. 

The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement hit Chan with six violations, including illegal conversion, inadequate sprinklers, and inadequate ways for tenants to safely escape the building in the case of an emergency, a spokesman said. In all, the fines stemming from that inspection totaled $53,200, and the Department of Buildings issued a partial vacate order for the cellar and first floor, a city spokesman said.

Chan was also fined for having a sagging front staircase, which could be seen visibly leaning at an angle on a recent visit by a DNAinfo New York reporter to the house. The building appeared empty, and vacate notices were prominently displayed on the doors, but there were still key drop boxes — commonly used by landlords to let in short-term tenants  — affixed to the doors.

Despite the vacate order, officials said Chan continued to rent the place out, and in a second inspection on Oct. 3 investigators found a group of 11 tourists from India staying there. Inspectors issued fines once more for the same infractions, this time totaling $63,000, according to a city spokesman.

Kalvin Ortiz, who works at a bodega across the street, said tourists were a common sight in the store, including groups of Europeans and Latin Americans, but that the number of visitors had declined noticeably in the weeks following the second inspection.

“They come in here and they buy a lot,” he said last week. “But I’ve been seeing fewer in the past 10 days or so.”

Since the second inspection, Chan has been permanently banned from using Airbnb, according to company spokesman Peter Schottenfels.

“Hosting is a serious responsibility and those who fail to meet our standards will be removed from our community,” he wrote in an email. “There is no place for bad actors on Airbnb in New York, or anywhere else, and we work every day to eliminate irresponsible behavior and unsafe environments from our platform.”

Chan did not respond to a request for comment.

The city passed a law in 2016 making it illegal to post short-term rental ads online, making most Airbnb rentals in the city unlawful.

As of Sept. 29, authorities had issued a total of 1966 illegal hotel violations at 452 addresses this year, with the highest number of citations—932 violations at 209 addresses—being issued in Manhattan, followed by 674 violations issued at 146 addresses in Brooklyn, according to a spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.