Are Airbnb Rentals Turning Into Hooker Hot Spots? - Legally Weird
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Are Airbnb Rentals Turning Into Hooker Hot Spots?

Airbnb is already on thin ice in many cities, but New York City sex workers are turning these short-term rental apartments into brothels, according to a new report.

The New York Post says at least one escort service has turned to Airbnb for a "more discreet" and cost-effective alternative to hotels. The rooms are rented by each individual escort who then pays the rent with a pre-paid debit card, leaving the owners unaware of the "business" that went down in their homes.

What's up with these Airbnb rentals (allegedly) becoming hooker hot spots?

Putting the 'Bed' in Airbnb

New York City has never had a great love affair with Airbnb. The city notably took on the fledgling rental service for violating the city's laws on short-term apartment rentals. Individual Airbnb-ers have been let off the hook for Airbnb-renting in the City, but Airbnb still must comply with NYC's laws.

And those laws certainly include not using Airbnb apartments for illegal purposes like prostitution.

An anonymous sex worker told the Post that using Airbnb allows escorts/hookers to avoid "doormen and cameras," as well as allowing them to save "$200 to $300 a night by not getting a hotel" -- a rave review if you're looking to start an undercover brothel in a hapless owner's Midtown loft.

Jessica Penzari, 29, learned about this scheme the hard way. Police notified her that her Airbnb "tenant" was really a hooker who'd been slashed by a client in Penzari's apartment, the Post reports. This incident took place only a month after an NYC comedian allegedly returned to find his Airbnb rental the backdrop of a "wild orgy."

Airbnb's Legal Moves

San Francisco-based Airbnb is currently under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for violating the city's short-term rental laws, as well as evading hotel taxes. For its part, Airbnb has requested that the Big Apple change its tax law to allow the company to collect taxes from its renters.

The current tax law prevents anyone but hotels from collecting and remitting occupancy taxes, reports Reuters. And since NYC doesn't classify Airbnb as a hotel service, it can't collect an estimated $21 million a year in taxes.

Even in cities that have blessed Airbnb, new laws may not protect owners from having their Airbnb turn into a temporary brothel.

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