Forty-five cities (and counting) taking steps to regulate short-term rentals

Here is a list of jurisdictions that have either recently taken steps to regulate short-term rentals or are more proactively enforcing their existing regulations. In most instances, the steps have been taken in response to the increasing popularity of Airbnb, but the changes affect or will affect other short-term rental services as well. Some cities are trying to make it easier for their residents to offer short-term rentals, but in most cases the intention seems to be to create more precise definitions of “short-term rental,” to implement oversight measures, such as inspections, registries or complaint mechanisms, and/or to find ways of collecting sales or lodging taxes on transactions that have so far escaped the taxes that hotels and bed-and-breakfast operators pay. I’m not in a position to judge the efficacy or fairness of these various regulatory actions; I just think it’s useful to have some kind of list and summaries of steps taken. Some politicians and city officials have specifically mentioned being motivated to act by the desire to preserve affordable housing stock for residents (as is the case in New York, San Francisco, Portland, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin), which I think is an important and valid concern.

I’ve referred to “cities” in the title because that’s typically the level of government involved, but in a minority of cases it’s county, state or provinces that have taken action.

The list is not comprehensive, but it’s more complete than most others I’ve found so far. Many jurisdictions have taken some kind of regulatory action just in the last few months. Things are changing rapidly, so I may not be able to keep the list up to date. The summaries I’ve provided don’t necessarily mention every aspect of the regulatory steps a given jurisdiction has taken. They are paraphrased from the linked media stories and should be taken as a starting place for further research and verification by those interested. I’m happy to receive corrections and suggested additions.

Please also see my timeline for similar info in a different format.

U.S. (Alphabetically by city)

1. Ashland: Ashland hired an inspector/enforcement officer in late 2013 to crack down on illegal short-term rentals. As of April 2014, he had been in touch with about 200 properties. The officer explains the rules, and in some cases issues 10-day cease and desist letters or imposes fines. He finds some illegal properties by searching website and is notified of others by local residents.

2. Aspen: As of March 2012, the city estimated it was losing about $100,000 per year in foregone sales tax (11.3%) and licensing fees. It legalized short-term rentals for those willing to buy a licence and pay taxes. It also required hosts to designate a local person to respond to any complaints or property-related issues. Aspen also has a housing authority that provides deed-restricted housing that is meant to be affordable for those in the city’s workforce. Short-term rentals are not allowed in the deed-restricted housing.

3. Auburn: As of October 2014, the city was at work on an ordinance that would require a $57 licensing fee. Homeowners who want to operate a legal short-term rental would need their neighbours’ approval, though if denied approval, the prospective host could appeal to the city’s planning commission (at a cost of $481).

4. Austin: The city has required registration of STRs since October 1, 2012. Amendments to Austin’s STR program took effect on January 1, 2014. See the ordinance here. The city created three different types of short-term rentals (1, 2 and 3). The fee is $235, plus a $50 fee for first-time registrants, which is to cover notifying neighbours. Prospective hosts must provide a certificate of occupancy or certified inspection, as well as proof of insurance and payment of hotel occupancy tax, if applicable.The city limits the number of type 2 and 3 properties by census tract and in each building (no more than 3% of units in a building).

5. Boston: Mayor Martin Walsh has instructed city inspectors not to fine local Airbnb hosts, but city councillor Sal LaMattina has put forward a motion asking for a hearing on short-term rental regulations. The public meeting is scheduled for January 26, 2014.

6. Boulder: In early January, the city’s zoning enforcement office responded to complaints by warning 20 property owners who were illegally renting their properties on a short-term basis. The city had received numerous complaints about the zoning breaches from one resident. Staff are to propose options, including sticking with the status quo, to council in the first quarter of 2015.

7. Chicago: In November 2014, the city’s budget director proposed a new initiative to collect the city’s 4.5 percent hotel tax on short-term rentals that don’t currently pay it. In January, the Washington Post reported that Airbnb would begin collecting taxes on nightly stays in Chicago as of Feb. 15.

8. Grand Rapids: The city began licensing single-room short-term rentals, subject to various restrictions, in October 2014. According to a November 13 media report, the city had received only four licence applications at that time, although there were about 70 Grand Rapids listings on Airbnb.

9. Greenport, Suffolk County (New York) Greenport’s code committee discussed short-term rental regulations in January 2015, but decided to consult the public before drafting any new rules, which it hopes to begin in April.

10. Los Angeles: In December 2014, council directed staff to research the city’s regulatory options by looking at the Portland and San Francisco models and to come back to it with recommendations. Earlier in the year, council directed staff to contact the city’s Airbnb hosts and inform them of their obligation to collect the state’s 14 percent transient occupancy tax, which applies to rentals of less than one month.

11. Madison: Council voted to regulate short-term rentals in October 2013. The ordinance states that only homeowners can legally offer short-term rentals and that short-term rentals should not be closer than 500 feet. Hosts who obtain a permit can rent out their primary residence for as many as 30 days a year while they are not present. The limit doesn’t apply if the host is present. The city is generally adopting the same approach for short-term rentals as applies to “tourist rooming houses” at the state level. This means an inspection is required before a permit can be approved. Ordinance here. (pdf)

12. Malibu: In an effort to ensure that short-term rentals pay the city the 12 percent transient occupancy tax, in May 2014, Malibu council agreed to subpoena information from various short-term rental services. ““The main purpose of this is to be able to control and make sure that people who rent out their homes are not adversely affecting our neighborhoods,’ says Laura Rosenthal, Malibu council member.”

13. Massachusetts: In January 2015, two Democratic congress reps for Boston (Aaron Michlewitz and RoseLee Vincent) introduced legislation to regulate short-term rentals at the state, rather than city, level. The details of the proposal are similar to legislation recently passed by the City of San Francisco. Hosts would have to register with the Department of Housing and Community Development and pay the same 5% tax that hotels are subject to, which funds tourism activities.

The bill would also allow cities and towns to collect additional excise taxes beyond the State’s 5% requirement, similar to the Boston hotel tax. Cities would also obtain the power to limit short-term rentals to an owner’s primary residence, thus prohibiting renters from sub-leasing to short-term rental services. Fines for non-compliance with the proposed regulations could be as high as $1,000 per day.

14. Maui County: Short-term vacation rentals are very common in Hawaii. Maui county began cracking down on illegal short-term rentals as early as 2007 (pre-Airbnb). It passed a new law on May 22, 2012 (Title 19 in the Maui County Code), which allows 400 homeowners to obtain permits for short term rentals. The permit process allows for input from neighbours.The approving body is the county’s planning department. The county’s website states that application approvals may take several months. One of the rules is that the manager of a “short-term rental home” must be available to answer calls at any time and must be able to be present at the property within one hour of a request from a guest, neighbour or county agency. The manager must also have an office or residence within 30 driving miles.

15. Montauk: In August 2014, the East Hampton Town Justice Court imposed a $7,500 fine on a man who had rented out his house through Airbnb, in violation of the town of Montauk’s zoning code. Interestingly, the violator in this case is an attorney. One of the original charges was violation of the town’s “excessive turnover” rules. Noise violations were also an issue. Another town resident was also charged with violating the excessive turnover provisions in the same month. According to this news report, Montauk has decided to “aggressively pursue owners with three or more incidents of violating town law regarding short-term rentals.” In late May, the town launched an online complaint form the public can use to report code violations.

16. Napa (City) Napa responded to concerns about short-term rentals in 2009 by creating an ordinance to replace its previous conditional business licence. As of January 2015, it began seeking public input on whether and how to increase the number of legal short-term rentals beyond the current 42. In March, the city held a meeting to hear from short-term rental hosts. Opinions on whether to tighten existing regulations were split, according to one local report. Staff are supposed to make a recommendation to council in April.

17. Nashville: In November 2014, Metro Nashville sent letters to about 430 local Airbnb hosts letting them know that they must pay hotel taxes of 6 percent on each stay as well as $2.50 per night, which is the same amount that hotels pay. It was unclear whether or how Metro would enforce retroactive payments. At the same time, legislation to regulate short-term rental was also in the works. The proposed legislation would create “short-term rental properties” as a new use that would be allowed in residential zones. Operators would need to apply for an annual permit and provide proof of liability insurance, as well as adhere to other requirements.

18. New Orleans: In July 2014, city council changed the definition of “transient vacation rental” in an effort to better regulate short-term rentals, which are illegal in the city (except for permitted bed-and-breakfasts). Other regulatory steps are under consideration. Homeowners who rent out their properties short-term have formed the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity and are working on an ordinance to present to council that would legalize the practice. Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell has said that she believes the increasing popularity of short-term rentals is increasing rents for locals.

When council debated short-term rentals in mid-December 2015, an urban planner who had compiled a set of 1,300 New Orleans Airbnb listings said that about 10% of those listings appeared to “account for almost half of all customer reviews, which suggests that a small group of property owners is responsible for the bulk of actual visits, at least among those who booked their stay on Airbnb.” He recommended that council regulate accordingly, noting that renting out a room in one’s own house is not the same as renting out the other half of a shotgun double or as a non-resident renting out a whole house.

In January 2015, the Times-Picayune reported that councillor Stacy Head, who has called the outright ban unworkable, was selectively circulating a draft ordinance to “legalize and tax short-term rentals that are run out of owner-occupied homes.” Rental of “back houses, half shotgun doubles, and individual rooms in the owner’s dwelling” would be allowed under the proposal, but rental of “residential properties in the French Quarter for periods of fewer 60 days will remain prohibited.”

19. New York (State): As of May 2011, short-term rentals (for less than 30 days) are illegal in New York City, unless the person renting out the unit is present (and with a few other minor exceptions). Violators can be fined $1,000 on first offence. This change was made through amendments to the state’s multiple dwelling law, which were designed to make it easier for the city to take enforcement action against property owners who convert entire apartment buildings to illegal hotels. They were supported by both tenant organizations and hospitality associations. State Senator Elizabeth Kruger (who represents a section of Manhattan) was one of the sponsors and key proponents of the amendments.

In October 2013, state Attorney General Eric Schneidermen subpoenaed Airbnb for information on all its New York City hosts going back to January 2010, including their names, email and physical addresses, and details on the individual transactions and revenues they had earned through the site. The intent of the subpoena was to aid efforts to prevent violations of the multiple dwelling law and also to assist in collection of unpaid occupancy taxes.

After some legal wrangling, Airbnb eventually agreed to release a version of the information the AG requested. Based on that info, the AG released a report on October 15, 2014 that said more than 70% of the city’s Airbnb listings were violating zoning or other laws. Also, and running counter to Airbnb’s public assertions, the report said that commercial operators were responsible for more than a third of units offered. The announcement of a stepped up enforcement campaign accompanied the report’s release.

20. New York City: In December 2014, NYC’s official public advocate, Letitia James, sent a critical letter to Airbnb arguing that Airbnb is a threat to Brooklyn’s affordable housing supply:

Airbnb’s rapid growth in neighborhoods such as these…is exacerbating the housing crisis and one of the factors that has unfortunately contributed to Brooklyn being ranked as the least affordable county in the nation,” James writes. “Airbnb must do a diligent job of self-policing to ensure their hosts are not violating state law.”

In early January, the New York Post reported that a city task force composed of police officers and inspectors from the buildings and fire departments, as well as a finance department investor, is following up on 311 complaints about short-term rentals. The task force is under the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement.

On January 20, the city’s Housing and Buildings Committee held an eight-hour public hearing on the question: “Short Term Rentals — Stimulating the economy or destabilizing neighborhoods?” Supporters and critics of Airbnb held separate rallies outside city hall beforehand. During the hearing, the head of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement said “the agency handled 1,150 illegal hotel complaints last year, a 62 percent increase from 2013,” as well as carrying out 883 inspections and issuing 804 violations.

Airbnb’s head of public policy, David Hantman, appeared at the hearing, calling for “smart regulation” that would allow for people to rent out the home in which they live on an occasional basis. This is possibly the first time an Airbnb representative has actually appeared before NYC city council. Airbnb also tweeted “FACT: There are far too few Airbnb listings to significantly impact housing prices

Council demanded Airbnb provide data showing how many users were renting out their own places a couple times a year and how many were fly-by-night hoteliers. Hantman refused to do so until the city said its listings were legal. The council said it couldn’t say what should be legal until it had the data, and around and around they went.”

Some news accounts reported that Airbnb seemed to have lost ground over the course of the hearing, even with those councillors who had been less informed or more openminded about the issue going in.

“The problem with Airbnb is they operate with willful ignorance,” said a spokesman for Councillor Karen  Koslowitz. “She thought their responses did nothing to assuage concerns.”

The Attorney General’s investigation into Airbnb is ongoing, and the City Council appears primed for more hearings. Airbnb, meanwhile, is taking its fight to the state capital, lobbying for a bill that would amend the 2010 law and make its listings legal.”

…In my mind, it’s a toss-up as to whether San Francisco or NYC is the city where Airbnb has been the most contentious.

21. Palo Alto: As of December 2014, the vice mayor and two others of council proposed that the city consider whether and how to regulate short-term rentals, including on questions of zoning, taxation and safety.  The proposal is for the “study session” to be held no later than March 31. According to a city memo, Palo Alto now has 300 to 400 Airbnb listings.

22. Palm Desert: An ordinance creating new rules for short-term rentals took effect on April 23, 2012. Under those new rules, anyone (including a company) renting for 27 or less days must pay an application fee of $25 per property for an annual permit. Operators must also pay a 9% transient occupancy tax to the city on each stay. Short-term rentals must be for a minimum of two nights and only two people per bedroom are allowed. Operators must designate a contact person who is available at any time to respond to complaints or concerns within 60 minutes. Violators may be fined up to $5,000. The city also stepped up monitoring and enforcement of short-term rentals when the new rules came into effect, including through the provision of an after-hours hotline.

23. Petaluma: Council considered a draft ordinance in September 2014 after fielding noise complaints from neighbours. Under the proposed ordinance, short-term rental operators would have to apply for a permit, notify neighbours within 500 feet and collect and pay hotel taxes. The number of guests would be limited and a complaint process would be set up.

24. Portland: As of August 30, 2014, short-term rental hosts must obtain a permit to operate from the city’s Bureau of Development Services. The permit is subject to inspection requirements and notification of neighbours. Hosts must also collect and pay lodging taxes. The new rules allowed for the rental of up to two bedrooms in a house or duplex (but not condos or apartments) through a simple permit process, rather than the lengthier and more and expensive one required for bed-and-breakfasts. The permit must be renewed every two years, at a cost of $178. Another key point: “The individual or family who operate the accessory short-term rental must occupy the unit as their primary residence.”

As of December 2014, only a minority (110) of the city’s active approximately 1,600 Airbnb hosts had applied for the permit. The discrepancy between the number of hosts and the number of permits sought prompted the city to consider ways to increase compliance. The Bureau of Development Services wanted to get the names and addresses of hosts from the Bureau of Revenue, which has obtained the information as a result of Airbnb’s agreement to facilitate the collection of lodging taxes. Airbnb argued this was an invasion of hosts’ privacy. On the taxes issues, Airbnb agreed to collect lodging taxes as part of its March 2014 “sharing city” agreement with Portland council, but the company is also one of the founders of the Short-Term Rental Advocacy Center (along with HomeAway, FlipKey and TripAdvisor), which opposes the mandatory collection of taxes on short-term rentals. According to news reports, Airbnb alone spent almost $48,000 lobbying Portland city council in 2014.

Despite the lack of compliance on the part of the hosts of newly legalized short-term rental in houses and duplexes, in January 2015 Portland council amended its earlier ordinance in order to allow short-term rentals in apartments and condos, subject to the same conditions.

At the same time, some Portland councillors expressed frustration over Airbnb’s lack of cooperation on existing enforcement measures. On January 21, 2015, council voted to begin fining short-term rental agencies $500 for each host who advertises a listing without including his or her city permit number. Warning letters will go out the week of Monday, January 26. The compliance deadline is February 20.

As of late January 2015, only 137 short-term rental hosts had applied for a permit, which is less than 10% of the estimated total number (1,600).

25. Raleigh: Short-term rentals are not allowed in most areas of Raleigh. As of early December 2014, the city was  planning to send a violation notice to a local Airbnb host, after receiving a complaint. Council has discussed how to handle the increasing number of illegal short-term rentals and appears divided on the issue. It has directed staff to report back in January on ideas and models used in other cities. The city sponsored a town hall meeting to discuss Airbnb issues in early January 2015.

26. San Francisco: There are many and ongoing twists and turns in Airbnb’s relationship with San Francisco, the city in which it was founded and still has its main headquarters. For a more complete picture than I can provide here, check Carolyn Said’s reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle and the archives of the (sadly) now-defunct San Francisco Bay Guardian, as well as the websites of advocacy groups such as the San Francisco Tenants Union and Share Better San Francisco.

In sum, though…Until October 7, 2014, short-term rentals (of less than 30 days) were prohibited under San Francisco’s planning code and its apartment conversion law. City supervisor David Chiu first started working on legislation to conditionally legalize short-term rentals in 2012. It is a version of that legislation that was approved in October and which came into effect on February 15, 2015.

Under that legislation, short-term rental operators must be permanent residents, register with the city and collect and pay the transient occupancy tax (14%). Operators who rent entire homes can only do so for a maximum of 90 days per year. All operators must have $500,000 in liability insurance.

Previous to the approval of that legislation there were reported cases of tenants subletting their rent-controlled apartments through Airbnb at higher rates than their own landlords were allowed to charge. At one point, San Francisco’s planning department was investigating 85 people who had illegally listed their properties on short-term rental sites. The department reported that complaints about short-term rentals had steeply increased since 2012. In a news article, a San Francisco attorney said he had filed 10-15 eviction notices on behalf of landlord clients in the six months prior to March 2014. The notices were sent to tenants who were violating their lease terms by renting out their apartments through Airbnb.

In terms of taxes, after more than two years of negotiation and a 2012 city treasurer ruling that said Airbnb hosts must collect and remit the transient occupany taxes, just like hotels, Airbnb finally agreed to ensure that happens. That agreement took effect on October 1, 2014. A requirement for Airbnb to pay its back taxes was also initially included in the legislation, but was later removed. Airbnb initially disputed that its hosts should have to collect or pay taxes, on the grounds that they were in a different category and carrying out fundamentally different activities than hotels. After about three years of wrangling, that issue was finally resolved in February 2015, when Airbnb agreed to pay “millions” in back taxes and nonpayment penalties. City estimates had the amount owed by Airbnb as high as $25 million.The specific amount paid was not disclosed but Airbnb said it had “paid in full.”

Various housing advocates and tenants groups are critical of the legislation that was eventually passed and have made counterproposals and suggested amendments. Share Better San Francisco’s counterproposals have included the following: requirements for tenants and property owners to get permission from their landlords or homeowner associations, as applicable; an operator registry that is publicly accessible by default (instead of only by request); a mechanism for holding short-term rental agencies accountable for their hosts’ listings; and provisions to ensure that below-market rate units and in-law suites are not rented to tourists.

In late January 2015, the Anti Eviction Mapping Project published a map of vacation rentals. “The map shows approximate locations of the 6,788 separate vacation rentals listed in San Francisco through the websites Airbnb and VRBO. The 5,503 Airbnb rentals AEMP found represents a jump of more than 10 percent since last June when the group found fewer than 5,000. In 2012, a San Francisco Chronicle investigation found just 1,800 such listings in the city.”

In late March, only about a month after the law came into effect (Feb.15) the planning dept. called the new law “unworkable,” citing various problems such as the fact that the $50 fee (covering two years) does not cover administration costs and that the 90-day limit on renting out a property when the host is not present is unenforceable because it’s impossible to verify. The planning dept. raised concerns about the law before it was passed. As of late March, two supervisors (David Campos and Jane Kim, were planning to bring forward amendments. These included provisions to make 90 days the annual maximum for all short-term rentals, regardless of whether the host is present, to fine short-term rental agencies $1,000 per day for allowing unregistered hosts to advertise on their sites, and to give neighbours the right to sue hosts when they exceed the limit of 90 days. Another major change would be requiring short-term agencies to turn over information on hosts to cities, which is the only way officials say they would be able to effectively enforce the restrictions.

27. San Jose: As of December 2014, the city agreed to tax Airbnb transactions at 10 percent, the same as charged to hotels. Hosts are required to notify the city and are limited to 180 annual visits when they are not present.The tax is expected to contribute $150,000 per year to city revenues. Airbnb will collect it as of February 1, 2015.

28. Savannah: In late 2013, the city issued cease-and-desist letters to about 45 residents who were breaking the city’s zoning regulations by offering short-term rentals. On November 10, 2014, council approved a zoning amendment and ordinance that will take effect on January 1, 2015. It will allow for short-term rentals in the parts of the city that currently allow inns, as well as three other mixed use areas. They will not be allowed in neighbourhoods that are primarily residential. A certificate will be required to operate a short-term rental and permission is subject to various other conditions and restrictions.

29. Sonoma: The city passed legislation in 2010 to regulate short-term rentals, under which operators are required to obtain a $150 permit. The city conducted an audit in 2014, however, and based on those figures estimates that it’s losing between $500,000 and $1.3 million in taxes from illegal short-term rentals. The city has written to Airbnb to launch discussions about setting up tax-collecting arrangements similar to the ones recently adopted by San Francisco and Portland. Meanwhile, in October the city hired a new staffer to help enforce existing rules and address complaints. New rules under discussion include requiring a short-term rental operator to live within 60 miles (instead of 60 minutes) of the property.

30. Spokane: The city has sent cease and desist letters to homeowners offering short-term rentals, in response to complaints. However, in an effort to make it easier to operate a short-term rental, in December 2014 the city asked the Washington State Building Code Council to stop requiring homeowners who want to rent out a spare room for less than 30 days to have a fire sprinkler system.

31. St. Helena: In May 2012, council agreed to create 25 permits for short-term rentals. Neighbours must be consulted. If 30% of property owners within a 300-foot radius object, the application goes to a planning commission hearing. Applicants also have to supply contact information for someone who can respond to complaints within 30 minutes and must submit to fire and safety inspections. In the 2014 fiscal year, the city received $60,949 in transient occupancy taxes from 17 vacation rentals. As of April 2014, council was considering some minor changes to the system, such as making it easier for neighbours in high-density areas to reach the 30% threshold that triggers an application hearing.

32. Washington, D.C. In January 2015, the Washington Post reported that Airbnb would begin collecting taxes on nightly stays as of February 15.

Canada

1. Gulf Islands: The economies of the Gulf Islands are heavily dependent on tourism. Short-term rentals have been a contentious subject there for at least 15 years. Each island of the islands sets its own land use policies. “Some, such as Hornby, are on the permissive end of the spectrum, while others, such as North Pender, take a stricter approach.”

2. Quebec: Responding to complaints from tourism operators, Tourism Quebec began enforcement efforts against short-term rentals in mid-2013. In January 2014, a special committee was formed to find longer-term solutions. Existing provincial law requires short-term rental hosts to get a $250 permit from la Corporation de l’industrie touristique du Québec and to be covered by liability insurance. Hosts must also pay a $2 to $3 per night tax to Revenue Quebec. Violators are subject to fines.

3. Tofino: Short-term rentals were controversial between 2005 and 2010, according to district mayor Josie Osborne. “We went through a few years of tough times when short-term vacation rentals began to proliferate and there was a lack of enforcement of bylaws. It even became an election issue one year,” she said. The district then created a new business licence for short-term rentals and clarified some points in its bylaws. There are now 76 business licences for short-term rentals, separate from those the district has issued for bed-and-breakfasts, which are subject to a slightly different set of rules.”

4. Toronto: The city will be evaluating its rules pertaining to rooming houses in the spring. As part of that review, at least one councillor (Shelley Caroll) is saying the city should reconsider its rules on short-term rentals too. This follows complaints from neighbours of a house in Willowdale that has been used a short-term rental, but also seems to respond to more general issues. Going by what’s reported in the linked article, the call for review seems to be more motivated by concerns about impact on residents’ quality of life than on affordable housing supply.

The article discusses negative impacts that have been observed associated with short-term rentals and notes that “there’s little recourse under existing rules in Toronto. According to city officials, if individuals want to rent their whole house, there is nothing to prevent it under current zoning bylaws.” The article doesn’t make clear whether it’s legal in Toronto to offer one’s apartment or condominium as a short-term rental.

Councillor John Filion is also quoted: “If there isn’t a law that prevents you from turning your house into a short- term rental accommodation, there should be,” he said. “The city should look into it.”

5. Vancouver: The city has not yet taken any formal steps to change the way it regulates short-term rentals, but Section 10.21.6 of the city’s Zoning and Development Bylaw states that “No person shall use or permit to be used any dwelling unit for a period of less than one month unless such unit forms part of a hotel or is used for bed and breakfast accommodation.” Council has also passed a set of health and safety guidelines for bed and breakfast accommodation, such as the requirement for a certain type of fire extinguisher, and it’s unlikely that those who provide unlicensed short-term rental accommodation are aware of these guidelines. The city also requires business operators, including those operating a business from home, to obtain a licence. Further, those who operate home-based businesses are not allowed to have clients come to their homes.

Also, in September 2014, the city sent a cease and desist letter to landlord Plan A Real Estate after tenants of Hoffman Manor complained that the company was renting out units in the West Apartment building through Airbnb (while also sending multiple eviction letters, dramatically hiking laundry prices and engaging in other forms of legally dubious behaviour towards its tenants). A city councillor (Geoff Meggs) and the local MLA (Spencer Chandra Herbert) intervened and publicly criticized Plan A for its actions.

In addition to local bylaws, Vancouver property owners who operate short-term rentals may also be in violation of various provincial laws that apply to the tourism industry, such as the Hotel Keepers Act, the Hotel Guest Registration Act, the Public Health Act and the Provincial Sales Tax Act.

6. Victoria: In October 2014, the city said it was talking to Airbnb about arrangements to collect taxes from site users. A news report said that Victoria had 354 active Airbnb hosts and that 7,300 guests used Airbnb in Victoria from April 2013 to March 2014.

Europe

1. Amsterdam: The city approved a new “short-stay” policy in February 2014. It allows residents to rent out their own homes for up to 60 days a year, under certain conditions. Tenants must obtain permission from their landlord. All short-term operators must pay tourist and income taxes. Property owners must obtain a permit that cost €772 (as of 2012) . Short-stays must be between seven nights and six months, with shorter stays allowed only in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.To protect affordable housing for residents, short stays are not allowed in subsidized or public housing. As of early 2014, city districts had stopped granting new permits because their number had exceeded the target of no more than 10% of private rental properties. Violators may be fined up to €18,500.

In October 2014, Amsterdam city council said that even with 22 full-time inspectors, it was unable to keep up on top of enforcement and complaint response. The city’s hotline had received more than 200 formal complaints about short-stays since July.

In December 2014, Airbnb agreed to collect Amsterdam’s tourist tax from customers as of February 1, rather than leave it up to those booking accommodation. The tax is 5% of the rate per night.

2. Barcelona: The regional government of Catalonia fined Airbnb €30,000 in July for illegally renting individual rooms to tourists. Airbnb  appealed the fine, which was the first such one it had received in Europe. Some Barcelona residents and neighbourhoods (such as Barcelonata) have become increasingly resistant and hostile to the impacts of tourism (binge tourism) in the last couple years – as detailed in the documentary, Bye Bye Barcelona. Several demonstrations took place in August and the city (under Mayor Xavier Trias) moved to shut down 24 illegal vacation rentals in that neighbourhood.

3. Berlin: Responding to rapidly increasing rents (8.3% increase from October 2012 to October 2013), Berlin’s senate began considering severe restrictions on short-term rentals in early 2013. Windmu and two other short-term rental websites lobbied against the proposed legislation. In April 2014, Airbnb called Berlin’s new housing law, scheduled to take effect May 1, confusing. The rules require operators to seek permission, which may or may not be granted, from the senate. According to this article, 10,000 to 12,000 Berlin apartments were being rented to tourists as of August 2014.

*Note: I’m still somewhat confused about the chronology of the Berlin short-term rental legislation. I’ve seen references to changes that took effect as of January 1, 2014 and as of May 2014. To be sorted out later…

4. Hamburg: As of July 2014, Hamburg residents were allowed to “rent out a private room or to occasionally rent out your primary residence” without seeking government permission or obtaining a licence. However, a licence is required for short-term rentals of a property owned, but not lived in.

5. London: Legislation prohibits residents from renting out their homes for less than three months. In late 2014, the Westminster council (apparently motivated by concerns about the its local housing shortage and security) began contacting short-term rental hosts who were violating the law, to the chagrin of Matthew Hancock, business minister for the Conservative government. The Conservative government has said it wants to encourage the “sharing economy” by relaxing various rules that get in the way.

6. Madrid: Under city rules approved in July 2014, short-term rentals must be booked for a stay of at least five days. Shorter stays must be booked at hotels. Operators are required to register their homes and to comply with various requirements related to size, accessibility, and other matters.

In the summer of 2013, a new law put the regulation of short-term rentals under local government control.

7. Paris: Mayor Anne Hildago campaigned on ensuring that residents have affordable housing. The city fined five landlords 25,000 euros each for breaking short-term rental rules in 2013 – the byproduct of more than 400 inspections. Ten more were fined in the first six months of 2014, with more under investigation. As of August 2014, Paris had a team of 20 staff carrying out surprise inspections at apartments suspected to be illegally rented to tourists on a short-term basis. Owners who produce fake leases (for less than the required year) may be prosecuted for fraud. “We can’t have entire neighborhoods or buildings turned into tourist homes,” Ian Brossat, Hidalgo’s housing adviser, said in an interview. “That’s why we’re fighting to keep Parisians inside Paris and we won’t let tourist rentals eat up their space.” Part of the impetus for the crackdown was government research shows that residential rents rose 42% in the decade leading up to 2013.

Paris also requires people who convert a residential property to a commercial property to buy another commercial property and convert it to residential (law of compensation). In late 2014, it further tightened that rule to require that the second property bought must be in the same district as the first. This is meant to prevent owners from converting an expensive residential property while buying a cheaper commercial one in a less desirable area to convert to residential. A city official said that only about 100 owners are going through the required steps every year.

According to a 2011 study, about 20,000 Paris properties are being used as short-term rentals. City officials now put that number at closer to 30,000 and say most of these are illegal. Airbnb says 83% of Paris listings are legally listed primary residences, but the city estimates it is more like 50%.

8. Portugal: As of November 27, 2014, short-term rental operators must inform their municipality of their status by completing an online declaration. This is according to Portuguese decree no. 128/2014, published on August 29, 2014. Violators may be subject to fines of up to €35,000 and a two-year prohibition on operating a short-term rental. Operators may rent as many rooms as they like for as long as they like. A requirement to pay taxes is also part of the new law.

Elsewhere

  1. Sydney: A December 2014 news article reported that various Sydney councils were responding to neighbours’ complaints by contacting short-term rental operators to inform them that their listings were illegal and that they could be subject to a fine of up to $1 million. Apparently some councils encouraged other hosts to begin the process of becoming official bed-and-breakfasts.The news report said there were 7,600 Sydney Airbnb listings.
  2. Tel Aviv: In November 2014, Tel Aviv ruled against a resident who used Airbnb to rent out half his apartment to tourists. This was apparently Tel Aviv’s first official enforcement against short-term rentals, which contravene the city’s planning code prohibition against using residential units as vacation rentals.

Total as of March 23 = 48

 

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5 thoughts on “Forty-five cities (and counting) taking steps to regulate short-term rentals

  1. Karen,

    Your blog came to my attention by way of Amanda van Baarsen’s recent Facebook post encouraging people to check it out. I just had a look through it, and I’m very interested to see what you’re bringing together on the subject.

    This topic is of interest to me for a range of reasons. In particular, in my work as a municipal lawyer in Ontario, I have encountered the issue of short-term accommodations on a number of occasions. Recently, a colleague and I argued on behalf of a homeowner in Ontario whose municipality was seeking a injunction from the courts to prevent her from renting her property out on a short-term basis. In working on this case, I became familiar with some of the municipal STA regulation attempts in Ontario, as well as B.C.

    There are two municipalities not in your list that you might want to look at in this regard:

    The Blue Mountains, Ontario (a four-season resort area on the southern shore of Lake Huron): http://www.thebluemountains.ca/sta.cfm

    Whistler, B.C.: https://www.whistler.ca/temporary-tourist-accommodation-regulations

    There may be others in Ontario that have attempted regulation, I’m just not aware of them. I’m aware of The Blue Mountains short term accommodation regulations because they resulted in some litigation (which we referred to in our client’s recent case), and those cases in turn discussed Whistler’s tourist accommodation regulations.

    Best regards,

    – Michael Letourneau

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    • Thanks, Michael. I appreciate the info and will follow up. I know that resort towns and other tourist-focused communities have had STRs and STR regulations for quite some time. And now cities – even ones that aren’t typically considered tourist destinations (e.g. Grand Rapids, Michigan and in Canada, Winnipeg and Edmonton) are seeing an upsurge in STRs too, and in some cases taking regulatory steps. Raises lots of interesting issues.

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  2. Pingback: Council Connection » Maintaining the Rental Housing Market: Regulating Short Term Rentals

  3. Pingback: Sources for Tofino & Ucluelet presentations, May 2016 | Short-term Consequences

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