Hostel Laws NYC Codes

by | Last updated Jul 13, 2020 | Hospitality, New York City

In most cases hostel are illegal in New York City pursuant to The Housing Maintenance Code Section 27-2077. The illegality of Hostels is further reinforced by the NYC Department Of Buildings: Building Bulletin 2013-005. Hostel Laws NYC Building Codes prohibit the development of commercial hostels in NYC.


Are Hostels Legal in New York City?

In most cases hostels are illegal in New York City with the exception of legally “grandfathered” hostels or hostels operated by a not for profit or city agency.


Can You Build a Hostel in New York City?

You cannot build a hostel in New York City except for certain instances where it is operated by a not for profit or city agency. Commercial hostels for profit cannot be built in New York City.


Hostel Laws NYC Building Bulletin 2013-005 

The New York City Department Of Buildings has issued a Buildings Bulletin to clarify the illegality of Hostels within New York City. The following is a quote for Building Bulletin 2013-005.

This document clarifies that hostel-type accommodations are considered to be illegal rooming units, pursuant to Section 27-2077 of the Housing Maintenance Code, except for certain grandfathered units and units operated by non-profit institutions and city agencies.

This document is quite clear that Hostels are illegal. The only exception is for “certain grandfathered units” and “units operated by non-profit institutions and city agencies”.


Hostel Definition:

As per BB 2013-005 a Hostel is the following:

For the purpose of this bulletin, a hostel-type accommodation is a Class B occupancy consisting of (i) the rental of sleeping spaces (beds) to two or more individuals in the same dwelling or sleeping unit on a transient basis, with rent charged or collected separately from each individual occupant of the dwelling unit, or (ii) any transient accommodation with common or shared bathing and/or toilet facilities.


In my own words: What is a hostel?

A hostel is a room that is rented to two individuals for temporary use where the 2 individuals pay rent separately or temporary accommodations where bathrooms are shared and not provided for each room individually.

I have gotten many calls from people telling me they want to build a commercial hostel in NYC but it is not possible. I hope this cleared things up for everyone.


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Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.