Philadelphia
Philadelphia [Unsplash]

Fresh STR rules come into effect in Philadelphia

US: Fresh short-term rental regulations came into effect in Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the United States and located in the western state of Pennsylvania, on 1 January. 

Since 2015, the city has made it mandatory for short-term rental owners to obtain zoning permits when they are gaining income from renting out their own homes for more than 90 days . For properties where the host is not present, it has been illegal to operate without a hotel licence in that time, although the law mainly went unenforced until the start of the new year and many people unwittingly broke the law as a result.

However, the city of Philadelphia is now promising stricter enforcement of short-term rental legislation, which will require short-term rental hosts who live in the unit they are renting out to secure a ‘limited lodging operator’ licence. The licence is designed to encourage greater compliance when it comes to obtaining anything such as lead paint certifications and ensuring their properties fit the necessary health and safety requirements.

For owners renting out properties where they are not present, they will still need to obtain a hotel licence to list their properties on home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo, which will be liable for under violations of the regulations.

The latest ruling brings an end to a long-running saga in Philadelphia after the regulatory bill was originally introduced by city council member Mark Squilla in February 2021 and signed by mayor Jim Kenney later that June. The bill was set to come into effect last April, before being delayed until summer 2022 and then eventually being enforced at the start of January.

Short-term rental advocates were able to delay the city’s implementation of the new rules last year, arguing that some hosts had not been notified in advance of the changes and that many of them would be unable to obtain the necessary licence before the deadline due to delays at the Zoning Board of Adjustment [ZBA].

Theron Lewis, founder of the Philadelphia STR Association, told The Philadelphia Inquirer: “What’s coming to a head right now is whether we are about to ban 70 per cent or more of short-term rentals, People are trying to apply for a variance, but the ZBA is not able to see anybody until February or later. If something doesn’t change, these people are going to lose their businesses.”

Lewis added that at least 2,000 of his members have so far struggled to meet the new law, particularly the most vulnerable.

On the other hand, Squilla suggested that hosts who are unable to meet the new requirements by the deadline could decide to rent out their properties for longer periods of time i.e. more than 30 days, and said that increased enforcement was necessary for Philadelphia to be ready to welcome tourists and fans for events such as the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Squilla said: “We’re not anti-rentals; we want more rentals. We want everybody to be in compliance because we have these big events coming.

“If there are issues, we can address them before that happens. We cannot keep pushing the ball down the road,” he added.

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