City of Boston and Airbnb reach ordinance settlement

US: The City of Boston and Airbnb have reached a settlement which will underline the rental platform’s responsibilities under the city’s recently-imposed short-term rental ordinance.

The city has introduced a registration on short-term rentals whereby Airbnb has to remove listings of illegal rentals from its platform at the earliest opportunity, according to Mayor Martin J. Walsh. The settlement is part of the Mayor’s commitment to creating and maintaining affordable housing in Boston for all of its citizens.

Walsh said: “My goal in regulating short-term rentals has always been to responsibly incorporate the growth of the home-share industry into our work to create affordable housing for all by striking a fair balance between preserving housing and allowing Bostonians to benefit from this new industry.

“I’m pleased we were able to reach a settlement with Airbnb, and continue our important work ensuring that Boston remains a home for all residents,” he added.

As agreed under the terms of the agreement, owners in Boston will be required to register their units, and inform the city which rentals they are operating and where.

This weekend (1 September), Airbnb’s platform is adding a new function which will allow hosts to enter and show their compulsory registration number. If they do not comply by 1 December, their listings will be removed from the site.

Airbnb will also be responsible for sharing important data with the city’s authorities, such as the listing’s unique ID, unique host ID, registration number, listing information and listing zip code.

While Boston’s short-term rental regulations seek to facilitate the growth of Boston’s home-sharing industry, they also aim to deter operators from monopolising the city’s housing market by taking affordable units off the market to be used as short-term rentals. Furthermore, they provide a standardised framework to regulate such units by protecting occupants and minimising potential disturbances for neighbours.

The ordinance will continue to take a three-tiered approach when classifying short-term rental units:

  • Limited Share Unit [$25 per year]: A private bedroom or shared space in the owner-operator’s primary residence, in which the operator is present during the rental.
  • Home Share Unit [$200 per year]: A whole unit available for a short-term rental at the primary residence of the owner-operator (unit in which operator resides for at least nine months out of a 12 month period).
  • Owner-Adjacent Unit [$200 per year]: An owner-occupied two- or three-family building, in which the owner lists a single secondary unit as a short-term rental.

Unit owners are obliged to register with the City of Boston each year to ensure they comply with the provisions of the ordinance, as well as to pay an annual license fee. Penalties are to be handed out to anyone operating units illegally as a short-term rental, anyone who fails to register the unit before offering it out as a rental, or anyone found not to be complying with violation notices.