The Truth about New York Vacation Rentals, Yes You Can

Written By: The Planet D

Haven’t you always wanted to visit New York City? It took us years to finally visit because we always thought it was too expensive. But our New York vacation rentals made it affordable. 

The Truth about New York Vacation Rentals

When we finally made it in 2010 we stayed in a low-budget hotel that had a shared bathroom and a tiny cramped bed. We got to see New York, but it wasn’t exactly the fairytale vacation that we always wanted. Cut to years later, and we finally feel that we’ve done New York in style on a budget with New York Vacation Rentals.

Our trip started off in Brooklyn staying in a historic brownstone apartment. Having the chance to stay in a residential neighborhood and experiencing life the way a true New Yorker does, made us feel a part of the city. How cool did we feel walking up the steps of our own brownstone and fantasizing that we actually lived in one of the most vibrant cities on earth? Read: Things to do in Times Square – A Walking Tour and Nearby Attractions

Grabbing dinner like the locals
Grabbing dinner like the locals

We went out to dinner where the locals eat thanks to the recommendations of Roman, the owner of our apartment, we stopped at the local wine shop, ordered coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop, and rode the subway like a couple of pros. We felt at home in New York. Check out 30 Best New York Views – Where to See the Manhattan Skyline

We didn’t feel like the rest of the tourists running around snapping photos of the Statue of Liberty or the bull on Wall Street, instead, we were experiencing New York City the way New Yorkers do.

We walked around Williamsburg with a latte in hand, strolled along the banks of the East River in DUMBO, and even popped over to Coney Island for a hot dog. We could get used to living like this.

Checking out Coney Island
Checking out Coney Island

Illegal New York Vacation Rentals Explained

Not only do you feel like a local when you stay in an apartment, but you also save a lot of money. You can cook your meals at home freeing up a lot of budgets to get out there and see the sights, you have the opportunity to stay in more affordable neighborhoods out of the tourist traps and if you are families who need more than one bedroom, you can rent a larger apartment at huge savings with multiple bedrooms.

However, in New York, many vacation apartment rentals are illegal and it’s important to understand the rules of what to rent and how to protect yourself.

Manhattan Apartment

Vacation apartment rental laws differ city-by-city, region-by-region, and country-by-country so it is important for you to understand the rules before you book your accommodation anywhere in the world.

New York is one of the places where many apartment rentals are illegal. HouseTrip insists that all hosts accept their terms and conditions, (which state that they are abiding with the laws of their region in relation to holiday rentals) but it’s impossible to check all 250,000 listings. However,  that is why they have taken measures to protect their customers.

There are legal vacation apartment rentals in New York and if you know what to look for, you too can experience a great local experience in the city. We talked to Roman of Historic Brownstones about why some apartments are illegal and what people should look for when booking their apartments.

What To Look For When Renting An Apartment In New York

Apartment Rental lin New York

Beware Of Apartments In High Rises

In New York, if a property looks like it’s in a high rise where there are more than three apartments it could be illegal. New York is trying to prevent people from buying up blocks of residential apartments to use as vacation rentals.

Look for shared spaces, self-contained apartments within single houses (like an apartment that has been carved out of space in a freestanding brownstone), or a single home itself. These are still legal according to the new laws.

Look for privately owned units that are family run

New York is working to prevent the condos and co-ops from taking up valuable real estate for commercial use. People are driving up prices and tying up space with apartment rentals that families or individual New York City residents could be living in.

If you look for apartments in a brownstone, for example, that is most likely a single-family home where they have renovated an apartment legally for vacation rental use.

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While there are risks to booking a vacation rental, with the help of these tips and by booking through VRBO, those risks are greatly reduced.

If you stay informed, make informed decisions, and do your research, a vacation apartment rental will help you have an enjoyable and affordable vacation in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO.ย 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

21 thoughts on “The Truth about New York Vacation Rentals, Yes You Can”

  1. Great article, I am a Brownstone owner in NYC and would like to continue to rent an apartment in my building for short term stays.
    Am I breaking laws/rules since this is a private building and I reside in it. It is not affected by rent control or rent stabilization. Thanks for your answer

  2. Hi… but you didn’t really explain what makes a short term rental illegal in New York.

    Co-op or condo, brownstone or townhouse… In New York State, renting out an apartment for less than 30 days is illegal. The only exception is if someone is renting out a room in an apartment where they currently reside and the guest has access to the entire apartment.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but the fellow you interviewed is no exception. He too is breaking the law.

    Short term vacation rentals create real estate speculation, drive up rents, add to the housing shortage and destroys the social fabric of the community.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  3. Thanks for the tips. I had no idea about “illegal vacation rentals” in New York.
    I checked out Housetrip’s website, and yes it’s Ok.
    With about 80 $ one can rent a room for 2.

  4. Great post! I laughed at your illegal apartment rental warnings. Although they are most certainly valid, as a New Yorker I quickly dismissed the idea of only staying in places the city deemed legal as ridiculous. This is NY, get away with whatever you can! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Also, what is that Dave’s eating in the picture? Next time you are here make sure I take you to get some real pizza.

    • Hi David, that’s great that you have that attitude, but I think the apartment owner who was slapped with $50,000 fine feels quite different. Also, Air BnB is undergoing a huge lawsuit right now and the apartment owners are under threat too. I think it’s a shame that New York has made them illegal, but then again, the people who are turning their co-ops and floors of condos into rentals are certainly making things difficult for their neighbours. I think eventually New York will figure things out. Apartment rentals certainly are the future. We’ll definitely be in touch the next time we’re back, I forgot that you were in New York, I have South Africa on my mind ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. We are all “localphiles” now. Not sure where I read that term first, but I love the idea of renting an apartment as a way to get the ‘local experience’ in New York. It’s a more authentic way of traveling. Authentic – yes another wishy washy word. But immersion, connection and access to real life is what many of us are after now when we travel. It matters more than the thread count.

  6. Great post, as a New Yorker I agree that the best way to feel like a local is to take up temporary residence in a real neighborhood. There has been so much confusion about legality lately some readers might be scared off from renting– which would be unforunate. I think your tips are right on point. For those who aren’t the downtown types and want to be near the museums and park, I lived on the UES for a long time and think this would be a great, safe and easy neighborhood for a tourist to stay in.

  7. I am a frequent tourist to NYC and to think I have been renting apartments every time and not paying too much heed to the legislation’s is quite scary. This post has been an eye-opener to me. Thanks a ton!

  8. Deb and Dave,

    these are are great tips for people that is traveling to New York.
    Hotels in this city can be quite expensive, so people may find it cheaper to book an apartment. However, everybody should know how to protect themselves.

  9. Love this post! NYC is a favorite for my husband & I and this is such a cool option. Thanks for getting this out there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Really fantastic place if gotta chance definitely will go there and will enjoy with bang . really superb post thank you for this keep posting….!!!!!

  11. This is a great blog. I find it very helpful as I didn’t know in NY is such a problem with illegal apartment rentals. Your trip sounds really nice, especially where you explain how you managed to experience life the way a true New Yorker does. I really hope I get a chance to visit this city very soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Sylvia, Thanks for the comment. I believe Paris is another place where apartment vacation rentals are illegal as well. When it comes down to it, many cities have illegal rentals, but people still rent them out anyway. What is important is to rent from a reputable company.