For Airbnb hosts in New York City, fame is not a good thing.
Lena Yelagina, who garnered local acclaim for her 30th-floor apartment rental in Trump Tower, has been fined $1,000 by the city. The charge? Advertising an apartment for rent illegally on Airbnb.
The city recently issued Yelagina a civil summons, after trying unsuccessfully to serve her at the beginning of March, the New York Times reported. She had been renting her apartment on Airbnb for at least six months before then, for between $300 and $450 a night. According to the Times, tracking Yelagina down took some work:
The inspector wrote in the affidavit that the concierge, a Russian woman, told him that Ms. Yelagina has owned the apartment for 15 years.
They then tried to find Ms. Yelagina at a flower shop that public records indicate she owns nearby, but were unable to find her. Finally, the inspector served the summons by leaving it with a doorman at Trump Tower and by mailing it to Ms. Yelagina’s apartment.
New York made it illegal to rent out an entire apartment in the city for less than 30 days in 2010, but struggled to enforce the rule, especially against the growing popularity of Airbnb. Then, this past October, the city passed a new law that banned simply advertising an apartment rental of less than 30 days. First offenders—like Yelagina—are fined $1,000. For repeat offenders, the penalty can reach $7,500.
Airbnb fought that legislation bitterly, and even sued the city after it was signed into law. The company later dropped its lawsuit in exchange for a promise that New York would only fine hosts for violations, and not Airbnb itself.
New York issued its first fines under the new law in February. Manhattan landlord Hank Freid was hit with 12 violations and real estate broker Tatiana Cames with five, at $1,000 apiece, for posting apartment rentals on Airbnb and several other online booking platforms.
Yelagina’s listing is no longer available on Airbnb, and the company told the Times that there are no more bookings in Trump Tower. In the meantime, the city might be able to put that fine money toward the very expensive task of protecting US president Donald Trump.