NYPD Seizes Several Vans Used as Illegal Airbnb Rentals

Police in New York City impounded seven vans that were being used as illegal Airbnb rentals for the past two years. Some of the vans faced numerous parking violations and expired registrations.

On Saturday the NYC Sheriff's Office official Twitter account posted photos of the vans seized by Road Patrol Deputies on various streets throughout Manhattan. The vans were advertised on the popular short-term rental app Airbnb for just $100 a night, compared to the average $200 plus a night in NYC.

In April, New York City officials passed legislation making it illegal to rent apartments for fewer than 30 days in the majority of housing buildings. Airbnb renters who violate the new legislation can face severe penalties including eviction and fines up to $7,500.

The vans were promoted for inexpensive "glamping" on the streets of New York City and were described as spacious private rooms that could sleep up to three, the New York Post reported. "Glamp in a spacious camper Van in NYC!" one ad read. Five of the vans were parked in NYC's East Village.

The vans were seized after a traffic enforcement agent noticed several of the vans had out-of-state plates that were long expired. Some had registrations that expired before 2000, the Post reported.

All seven of the vans were impounded throughout Thursday and into Friday, authorities told the Post.

Following an investigation launched by the NYPD Sheriff's office and the NYPD Document Fraud Unit, authorities found that these vans were part of an "operation of alleged fraudulent and illegally registered vehicles being used as Airbnb rentals on various streets in Manhattan," Sheriff Joseph Fucito told the Post.

Sheriff's Road Patrol Deputies were busy this week impounding seven alleged fraudulent and illegally registered vans being used as Airbnb rentals on various streets in Manhattan. 🛑🚦🚔 pic.twitter.com/rBZ1TBZ2xt

— NYC SHERIFF (@NYCSHERIFF) September 25, 2021

One guest who spent a night in a red 1999 Ford Econline with New Jersey plates in the East Village said the experience was interesting. Uptin Saiidi, a journalist and video creator from California, was sold on the inexpensive rental in a prime location for just $97 a night.

Saiidi documented his entire experience in a video posted on his YouTube back on August 11. He said the key that was left for him in the lockbox on the back of the van only unlocked the door but did not start the engine.

He also said when he arrived at the van he noticed a parking ticket from the night before. He was immediately concerned.

He described the van as "smelly" and said that his stay was "awful" because he was unable to even move the location of the van. He also noted there was no bathroom in the van which concerned him. Saiidi said the host instructed him to shower at a public pool and utilize the public bathrooms nearby at the Starbucks or local gym.

Illegal Airbnb vans seized in NYC
The NYPD has launched an investigation into the illegal Airbnb rentals that were advertised as an inexpensive "glamping" experience in the middle of New York City. The city passed legislation making it illegal to rent apartments for fewer than 30 days in the majority of housing buildings. Darieus/Getty Images

Throughout his stay, Saiidi used the bathroom at nearby bars and fast food restaurants. He was able to get internet by using his phone's hotspot. He also mentioned that the van had no air conditioning so in order to get any airflow he had to open the windows.

In Saiidi's video, he showed the interior of the van, which is set up like a camper with a curtain separating the two front seats from the open "room" in the back. The sleeping portion of the van has curtains to block the multiple windows as well as a large bed and a small nightstand equipped with a makeup mirror and two water bottles.

"I still don't know if this is legal to sleep in a van in New York City," Saiidi said in the video. The Department of Transportation said it is legal as long as the car is not parked in the same spot for over 24 hours in restricted areas and no longer than seven consecutive days on non-restricted streets.

The investigation is ongoing but the owners of the vans have not yet been identified.