New York City Cracks Down on Illegal Airbnb "Glamping Vans"

Until recently, the van-curious could have gone glamping on NYC streets

Airbnb van on Manhattan street


#Vanlife continues to be a hot trend on Instagram, with many people across the country trying out the nomad life by camping out of a van or RV, and until recently, the van-curious could have tried it out on New York City streets.

This week, the city confiscated seven vans that had been placed in various locations across Manhattan which were being illegally rented out on Airbnb, some for as long as two years. The vans had been advertised as a form of “glamping” on the streets of the Big Apple, with the price clocking in at around $99 a night—far cheaper than most hotels or even competing Airbnb listings.

The vans, which had been renovated to resemble a small bedroom, came equipped with a full-size bed, a power station to keep electronic devices charged up, curtains installed over the windows for privacy, string lights, a vanity mirror, and earplugs, which were almost certainly a necessity given the reviews for the vans.

A popular YouTuber, Uptin Saiidi, shot a video of his stay inside of one of the vans for his channel which was later used by authorities in the investigation. In the video, Saiidi details the conditions inside the van, including the smell and the all-night noise. He also mentions the stress of finding a public restroom, given that the van is not equipped with one of its own.

According to the New York City Department of Transportation, overnight sleeping in a van is legal, provided it's not parked in the same spot for 24 hours in restricted areas. For this reason, the vans were frequently moved around short distances within the same neighborhood. The key allowed access to the van itself but did not work in the ignition, Saiidi noted in his review. He also said that upon arrival, the van already had a parking ticket on the windshield. Meanwhile, according to the New York City sheriff, another van parked in Chelsea had racked up over $1,500 in parking violations. The vans all had New Jersey license plates, many of them with expired tags. The registration of one van in the East Village expired in 2000, while another wasn't registered at all. 

In a statement, a spokesperson from Airbnb said that both the host and listings were no longer active on Airbnb's platform. "In June 2020, we reached a robust information-sharing agreement with New York City and subsequently began complying with the City's short-term rental data reporting law, which regularly provides the City with the insights it needs to effectively regulate short-term rentals," the rep said. "Enforcement of the law is the responsibility of the City, and it has the data needed to do so, in this case, likely for months."

It looks like the next time you want to go glamping in NYC, you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way.