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  • May 21st, 2013 @ 5:39pm

    Fire Code

    The accusation "the only purpose of this law is to protect hotels from competition" is flatly incorrect, and it is clear Mike Masnick has little regard for public safety if it inconveniences his vacation. It also, unfortunately, demonstrates how little the public understands about safety regulation.

    The reason why a renter or co-op owner can't rent out their apartment as a hotel is because in New York City hotels have much stricter safety regulations than residential structures.

    Primarily, hotels have mandatory smoke detectors fireproof and illuminated stairwells, sprinkler systems, strobes, ventilation systems, fire exits, battery back-up lighting, centralized fire command panels, etc. which only very modern residential buildings have in place. The vast majority of buildings in New York City have archaic fire protection and there is almost no regulation on residential structure. A residential might only get an inspection once every 10 years. There's a good chance the fire escape is unsafe. Or the stairwell is full of refuse or being used for storage. There may simply be no second point of egress because of fears of burglary, or the roof door is bolted shut. The hose for the standpipe could be rotted (if there is water in the standpipe at all). The fire extinguishers probably aren't charged (if they even have any). The resident has to maintain smoke detectors, not the building owner, so if a neighbor forgets to change his battery and there's a fire in his apartment, you could die in your sleep.

    Another (lesser) reason is that of simple security. Most residents of a building don't want a steady stream of strangers coming in and out of their building. The chance of violent forced entry, theft and rape are very real concerns to residents, especially the elderly or those with small children. Those who dismiss that with "everybody who uses 'Airbnb' is a nice honest person" are both arrogant and blind. This is New York City after all -- no matter how much the tourist industry and Airbnb may try to sugar-coat it -- and those things happen all the time.

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