New York Landlords Turn to Private Investigators to Help Catch Tenants who Rent on AirBnB

AirBnB is a web site that allows anyone to rent out their home for short periods of time. Though the concept sounds simple enough, complications abound. For example, many of those who place properties for rent on AirBnB’s website are renters themselves, and may have clauses in their rental agreements that prevent them from legally subletting their apartments or houses.

In the case of many upscale landlords of Manhattan apartments and buildings, they have taken to hiring private investigators to help them find tenants that are in violation of their rental agreements.

Private investigators in New York City are finding that landlords of swanky Manhattan apartments in such areas as Tribeca and the Upper West Side, are willing clients for their services. The private investigators, sometimes posing as prostitutes and drug dealers, respond to various AirBnB advertisements offering short term rentals, with the intention of gathering evidence against the lease-breaking tenants.

The move comes in response to numerous reports of wild parties and drug use occurring in apartments that were illegally rented on AirBnB. For example, one private investigator, code named Tattianna, was reportedly told to “Bring as many guys as you want over,” by someone offering to rent her an apartment for the night. She was posing as a prostitute at the time.

Private investigators are charging up to $250 an hour or more to work the AirBnB cases, and business is reportedly booming. Once the evidence, including photos and receipts, is collected, generally the landlords can use it as leverage to force the tenants out.

In the city of New York it is illegal for tenants to rent out their apartments for less than 30 days if they will not be present during the term of the rent. Lawmakers in New York are currently grappling with how to address the explosion of AirBnB listings in the city.