Online listings “breaking” Los Angeles short-term rental rules

US: Thousands of online rental listings are allegedly breaking Los Angeles short-term rental laws, according to a report in The LA Times.

The city introduced restrictions last year, limiting home-sharing to a person’s primary residence and limiting bookings to 120 days a year, hoping to reduce the impact on housing stock.

However, thousands of properties currently advertised online are missing registration numbers, which the city uses to check whether a property is complying with regulations. On Airbnb alone, nearly 6,000 rentals lack identifying registration, making up 42 per cent of the city’s active listings.

In response, authorities have sent out two rounds of warning letters and issued over 650 citations to hosts, including fines of $500 each. City officials note that these warnings usually cause offenders to follow the rules, and that listings have decreased by 62 per cent since enforcement began last November.

Yeghig Keshishian, planning department spokesman, told The LA Times: “These reductions are largely the result of staff spending an enormous amount of time helping hosts register, cleaning up data, and taking down illegal listings. At the end of the day, our goal has always been to resolve these problems and achieve compliance.”

The city has not, however, used its power to charge a $500 per day fine for illegal listings. It also has not brought any action against short-term rental platforms, claiming that the evidence for collusion between platform and non-compliant host was not there.

Airbnb and Los Angeles came to an agreement over regulations last year, ruling that the platform would remove non-eligible properties from its platform. It announced a system to help planning officials with enforcement, however its implementation was postponed after the mayor requested an evaluation of its effect on city finances.

According to data collected by Inside Airbnb, at least 400 hosts listed more than one property on the website, though the data does not account for third party sites or inactive listings. An Airbnb spokesman responded to the information, saying the site was helping to ensure the rules are working.

Meanwhile, Vrbo said that it had been in compliance with Los Angeles’ law since 1 November 2019, and that it had removed unregistered properties from its site and prevented listings from going live without a registration number.

Expedia Group head of public affairs, Philip Minardi, said: “We are proud of our collaboration with the city and are hopeful the city will move forward a bill to legalise and regulate non-hosted stay rentals.”