Landlords Crack Down On Philly Pope Airbnb Rentals Citing Legalities, Snipers

"If you're a nut job with a sniper rifle, you could get a great shot."

A view of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and some of the high-rise residences surrounding it. Photo by Byrne Fahey.

A view of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and some of the high-rise residences surrounding it. Photo by Byrne Fahey.

A lot of city dwellers are hoping to cash in on the pope’s visit to Philadelphia by renting out living space to the papal constituency, but many are finding themselves out of luck thanks to apartment and condominium regulations.

“I keep busting people,” says Chuck Holmer, one of the managers of the City View II condominiums at the corner of 20th and Hamilton, overlooking all of the Pope festivities on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. “I find residents trying to rent on Airbnb, and I also find people from other buildings nearby, and I report them to the management at those buildings.”

Holmer says that most of the building managers in the area that he knows are patrolling sites like Airbnb and Craigslist for residents looking to rent during the pope’s visit. Any standard apartment lease prohibits subleasing, and many condominium association agreements preclude owners from renting out their spaces without prior approval from the condominium’s board  — others prohibit rentals entirely.

One leasing agent at the Granary, an apartment high-rise at 1901 Callowhill Street, told us that residents there are never allowed to lease out their spaces and confirms that they’ve been checking Airbnb frequently to catch rule breakers. A representative from Park Towne Place at 2200 Benjamin Franklin Parkway said the same.

Holmer sent a letter to City View II residents, warning them not to try for a payday when the pope comes here in September. “A violation of the governing documents could result in financial sanctions against you,” he wrote. “The use of short term lease websites such as will be seen as an attempt to lease your unit.”

Bill Eckerle lives in a penthouse suite at City View, and says that he’s heard that some people are hoping to get as much as $25,000 for the week for they Parkway-view residences.

“I don’t see where it’s worth that kind of money,” he observes. “But from my penthouse suite, you would have a spectacular view of the Parkway and the Art Museum. If you wanted a front row seat without being amassed in the crowd, this is basically as good as it gets.”

Holmer tells us that it’s not just about being a stickler for the rules. He also has serious concerns about safety and security.

“People think that with two million people coming to town, there are going to be two million Catholics,” he says. “But that’s not the case. There are going to be 100,000 petty criminals roaming around, and I’m sure some of them are looking for Airbnb rentals, too. Plus, we have an excellent view of where the pope will be. If you’re a nut job with a sniper rifle, you could get a great shot. I don’t like to think about it.”

Eckerle says he’s heard similar concerns.

“They’re worried about terrorists or some fanatic coming in and being in a high place in a secluded apartment, waiting to take a shot at the Pope,” he says. “I am just hoping that the dust is cleared so that I can get to the train station on Monday.”

He was supposed to leave for a trip to Germany during the pope’s visit, but he postponed his departure so that he could catch a glimpse.

“This Pope is a rock star,” he says. “This is a world event. I can’t miss it.”

With additional reporting by Byrne Fahey and Megan DiTrolio.

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