By Anessa V. Cohen
Lately, I have been reading many articles about New Yorkers living in apartments who have been renting out space through various websites to tourists looking for a cheap place to stay.
My initial reaction was how anyone could just rent out a room in their home—be it apartment or house—to strangers from a variety of foreign countries with different cultures, customs, and unknown integrity. It may sound a little high in the instep to some, but in the interests of security alone, I could not imagine doing this sort of thing, and found myself amazed to the point of wanting to read more stories of these people.
It has long been a fashion to visit many states in the Union and go to a recommended bed-and-breakfast with a private room and bath as well as meals and other amenities. But in this case, one would ordinarily assume that the locks on the doors are sound, the bathrooms are private, and there is professional management that would make it a safe place to take accommodation and enjoy the ambiance. How to compare a bed-and-breakfast with a secure private room and bath to a one- or two-bedroom apartment with a bathroom, and possibly kitchen and living room, that you share with the tourist/stranger of the week?
I read a story of a guy who rents out his small second bedroom all year long to a regular trail of tourists from all parts of Europe—complete strangers to him. When asked by the interviewer if he had any qualms about getting robbed or worse, he only shrugged his shoulders and said he found the whole experience “a kick” and so far had done OK with his luck of the draw of tenants who had come and gone, and had made himself a nice bit of change at the same time.
Now the interesting part of the article came up when the interviewer asked him, “But don’t you worry that if the government finds out that you are renting rooms to these people, you will be fined?” Go figure that it is illegal in New York City to rent out rooms in your apartment! His answer was that so many in New York City are now doing this—even sometimes renting out half a room, meaning two beds in a room, one for the owner and one for the tourist—that if the authorities wanted to go after someone, they would have to work on a very long line of people.
Forget the line; when he said that he knew people renting out half a room with one bed to strangers from foreign countries, I flipped. Who does such things in today’s world?
Even people looking for roommates check them out and look for references! So based on what he is saying, people are renting out rooms and half-rooms to foreign tourists without checking them out at all, but roommates still need to be credit-checked and referenced. What is wrong with this picture?
Some of the commercial buildings that come up for sale now and then are former SROs (single-resident-occupancy buildings). These usually consisted of a room with no cooking facilities (but people would bring hot plates into them in secret) and a bathroom down the hall shared by all the residents on that single floor. This situation of renting out rooms in small apartments has a real resemblance to the old SRO or boarding-house mentality. And here we thought that in the interests of progress we had completely done away with that. Go figure! v
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage originator with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) as well as mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa.cohen@AVCrealty.com.