US: Following Los Angeles City Council’s vote in December to impose stricter rules on rental platforms, Airbnb is now pushing the city to delay enforcing more restrictions on them.
December’s unanimous vote on a new ordinance to limit city residents to hosting rentals in their primary residence [as opposed to a second home or investment property] had been warmly welcomed by tenant activists at the time, but discussions over its enforcement have dragged on ever since.
The objective of the ordinance was to prevent exacerbating the city’s existing housing crisis and to stop apartments being operated with hotel-like standards, leading owners to charge more over the short-term period.
In a letter sent by Airbnb public policy manager John Choi to city officials, the rental firm said it needed more time to “build a computerised system to share rental information with the city” if it was going to be able to adhere to the latest ordinance.
It further argued that it had been “impossible” to meet a deadline of November to comply as it did not receive a draft of the ordinance until late August, and it would require a city contractor to implement the changes needed; a process which could take months, according to Airbnb.
Airbnb added that it supports the registration system introduced for hosts in Los Angeles but urged the city to understand that the changeover process would take longer to complete than the deadline imposed.
Los Angeles planning department spokesman Yeghig Keshishian told The Los Angeles Times that the computerised system was “one method” of compliance but firms like Airbnb could also share spreadsheets with “the relevant information”. He added that regardless of an agreement being reached with Airbnb, the city council would “be prepared to enforce the ordinance come 1 November”.
Another platform asking the city to put back the enforcement date is HomeAway, which is calling on officials to allow hosts to list second homes rather than solely their primary residence on Airbnb.
Short-term rental critics say that postponing the enforcement until a later date would allow corporate owners to continue operating apartments like “rogue hotels”, and that the ordinance is necessary to open up housing supply for tenants who want to stay in accommodation in the city for the longer-term.
One critic, Keep Neighbourhoods First co-founder Judith Goldman, raised her concerns over the lack of housing availability in Los Angeles with the newspaper: “The city has declared a state of emergency on homelessness yet they’re dragging their feet on short-term rentals.”
In its letter, Airbnb also advanced that Los Angeles city council had failed to provide sufficient information to hosts about how to comply with the new rules, such as how to get permission to exceed the annual 120-day lettings limit and rent out their homes to travellers all year round. According to the rental platform, “a critical income stream” would be at risk for many of its hosts if a delay were not to be granted.
In a further argument of its case, Airbnb said its hosts would have difficulty in collecting lodging taxes and passing them onto the city without a broader agreement on the ordinance already being in place.