Edwina and I have long been big fans of Airbnb. We have been using the website for more than a decade, and love the idea of living like a local and saving money we’d otherwise spend on hotels for dinners out instead. We’ve had great experiences staying in Airbnb properties on the Gold Coast and in Hawaii, San Francisco, London, Vienna and Venice, tom name a few. But we were extremely disappointed with a recent experience in New York.

We had booked a one-bedroom apartment on New York’s west side for four nights. When we arrived the girl who owned or rented the apartment said she couldn’t let us in because the building manager wouldn’t allow us stay because they don’t allow Airbnb there. I told her that was ridiculous, and we had to go up the road and get a SIM card and she needed to have it sorted out by the time we got back. When we returned she let us into the apartment, but it almost felt like she was smuggling us in. She said if anyone asked to say that we were friends of hers.

We stayed for one night, but when we went out the next day the manager chased after us. We said we were friends, but he said they wouldn’t allow us to stay and we had to move out of the apartment immediatley, so we went to a hotel. I struggled to get a refund from the girl for four weeks, and had to get Airbnb involved. Eventually I received an email from the manager saying they don’t allow Airbnb in that building and the girl who had the apartment was acting illegally. We ended up receiving a full refund, and that apartment is no longer available on the site.

It was quite a disruptive thing to have that happen on our first day in the city. We’ve since learned that New York has complex rules when it comes to Airbnb and other short-term rentals. It’s actually illegal for New Yorkers who live in buildings with three or more residential units to rent their apartments out for less than 30 days, unless the owner or leaseholder is present during the stay. It seems the hotel industry there is trying to retain a stronghold on keeping room rates up. An important lesson learned, and something for other Australians heading to New York to be wary of.