Embattled Airbnb Hosts In Niagara Falls Aren’t Shutting Down

by Joseph Kissel

Niagara Falls is the only tourist destination in the world that gets 8 million visitors a year and is broke.

Here’s another reason why.

At the beginning of the summer tourist season, the Code Enforcement Office for Niagara Falls sent out “cease and desist” letters to all the city residents who are listed on the Airbnb website, which connects people looking for lodging with private individuals who rent out that extra room in their house.

So what you get is residents — who are living in one of the most-heavily taxed cities in one of the most-heavily taxed states — with some extra cash while keeping up their homes as well as the immediate surroundings in a city known for its unrelenting blight.

One of the leaders in the Niagara Falls effort to provide tourists with a more personal lodging experience is Carroll Schultz, who whole-heartedly agrees Airbnb and other online private rental services are good for Niagara Falls.

The owner of Wanderfalls bed and breakfast at 601 Spruce Ave. says she’s never heard any negative tourist experiences at the hands of an Airbnb host.

“The internet allows for a much more informed consumer,” she said. “All those reviews are out there, and if there is a bad host, they won’t be hosting very long because nobody will book it,” she said. (She added there’s only about 30 online room renters in Niagara Falls, New York, with about 270 in Niagara Falls, Ontario.)

Still, the city wants Airbnb room renters to become complaint with bed and breakfast codes.

“Should you fail to comply with this directive, this Department shall advise the Corporation’s Counsel to initiate legal action against you,” the letter read. “Such action shall result in fines and penalties levied against you to obtain the required compliance.”

Schultz said she contacting the city code enforcement officer many months ago regarding compliance issues without any resolution.

While she doesn’t think the city dragged its feet reaching out to residents — with a letter threatening fines — others don’t feel that way.

“They knew the summer season was coming,” said an Airbnb “superhost” who attended a meeting last week with Schultz and 13 other Airbnb residents — some who received the “cease and desist” letter from the city.

“It’s the height of the tourist season and they are trying to shut us down. Why didn’t they do this earlier so we had a chance to prepare?”

As it stands, the Airbnb renters have no plans to stop what they’re doing.

“We have all these bookings in place and we’re going to tell everyone ‘your vacation is ruined?’”

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