Airbnb becomes Dormbnb

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

When Benjamin Capitano moved into his dorm as a sophomore at the King’s College, a tiny liberal arts college in Manhattan, he realized he’d been given a gift: a couch. So he listed his bed on Airbnb for $99.

“I’ve always had a knack for hospitality,” Capitano said. “I got us sheets and the little mini soaps and basically set up my dorm like a hotel.”

At Columbia University, New York University and the University of Pennsylvania ($1,000 a night for a room for two during the pope’s Philadelphia visit), students have been using Airbnb to offset the cost of college. The listings tend to omit one fact: that the bed is in student housing. (Potential guests, be sure to check pictures for telltale dorm furniture, and reviews: “It’s in a dorm. … I sort of felt creepy around all the kids,” said one guest at the School of Visual Arts.)

While most housing contracts prohibit rentals, lately colleges have been reviewing their policies to ensure they explicitly mention Airbnb.

The King’s College had only a guest policy. Capitano said he was careful to follow the rules and submit the right forms to his resident adviser — “conveniently, I was the RA.” More than 20 guests stayed, a bounty he split with his two roommates.

But word got around. After a tense meeting with housing officials, restrictions were promptly added.

Capitano was able to finish up the semester as the RA, but others have not fared as well. A student at Emerson College in Boston is facing a disciplinary hearing for renting his dorm room on Airbnb.


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