L.A. seeks to tighten rental rules for Airbnb

Pro­posal would bar prop­er­ties that aren’t host’s main home.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Emily Alpert Reyes emily.alpert@la­times.com Fol­low @LATimesEmily for break­ing news from L.A. City Hall.

Two Los An­ge­les law­mak­ers are propos­ing new reg­u­la­tions to bar peo­ple from rent­ing out houses or apart­ments for short stays if the home is not their pri­mary res­i­dence — a rule aimed at pre­vent­ing lo­cal hous­ing from be­ing bought up and op­er­ated like ho­tels.

“We can­not tol­er­ate how a grow­ing num­ber of spec­u­la­tors are elim­i­nat­ing rental hous­ing and threat­en­ing the char­ac­ter of our neigh­bor­hoods,” City Coun­cil­man Mike Bonin said Tues­day.

The mea­sure, in­tro­duced by Bonin and Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Herb Wesson, is aimed, in part, at rentals bro­kered through web­sites such as Airbnb. Their ex­plo­sive pop­u­lar­ity has pit­ted the com­pa­nies and a newly or­ga­nized net­work of hosts against hous­ing ad­vo­cates, neigh­bor­hood ac­tivists and ho­tel unions wor­ried about the ef­fects of the rapid rise.

Un­der the pro­posed rules, An­ge­lenos could rent out a spare room, back house or a whole house or apart­ment for short stays, as long as it was their pri­mary res­i­dence. Un­like neigh­bor­ing Santa Mon­ica, which re­cently adopted some of the strictest reg­u­la­tions in the na­tion, L.A. would al­low some­one to rent out their own home while out of town.

How­ever, An­ge­lenos could not rent out any home that was not their main res­i­dence for short stays, nor any unit that is cov­ered by rent con­trol. By im­pos­ing those re­stric­tions, Bonin ar­gued that the city would pro­tect gen­uine “home shar­ing” while crack­ing down on “rogue ho­tels.” The pro­posed rules also would re­quire short-term rentals to col­lect the same kind of city taxes as ho­tels.

Rental hosts have praised plat­forms such as Airbnb for pro­vid­ing them both an eco­nomic life­line and a way to share a slice of their lives with trav­el­ers. But the phe­nom­e­non of com­mer­cial own­ers rent­ing out en­tire homes or apart­ment build­ings has stirred alarm about rental units be­ing pulled off the mar­ket.

“No one is op­posed to home shar­ing,” Venice res­i­dent Linda Lucks said at a coun­cil meet­ing Tues­day. How­ever, “kick­ing out res­i­dents and long-term ten­ants who’ve been there for years in or­der to make a big­ger buck is not home shar­ing.”

Airbnb has re­peat­edly said that the vast ma­jor­ity of its L.A. hosts are the “pri­mary res­i­dents” of the homes they list, us­ing the plat­form to help make ends meet. In re­ac­tion to the new pro­posal, a com­pany spokes­woman said Tues­day that although many de­tails re­main to be worked out, the plan ap­pears promis­ing.

“This pro­posal demon­strates L.A. is em­brac­ing home shar­ing and the peerto-peer econ­omy,” Airbnb spokes­woman Alison Schumer said.

But a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Los An­ge­les Short Term Rental Al­liance, which in­cludes rental own­ers and op­er­a­tors, said the plan was too “one-size-fits-all.”

Va­ca­tion rentals are “part of the fab­ric of Los An­ge­les, and they’re get­ting short­changed,” said Robert St.Ge­nis, its direc­tor of op­er­a­tions. He said mem­bers of his group were es­pe­cially con­cerned about how the city would de­fine a “pri­mary res­i­dence” for some­one who splits their time be­tween dif­fer­ent places.

Bonin and Wesson also want the city to back a pro­posed state law, SB 593, that would re­quire Airbnb and other on­line rental plat­forms to re­port the ad­dresses, num­ber of nights rented and amount paid for such rentals to cities and coun­ties. Airbnb has balked at that idea, say­ing it would be a vi­o­la­tion of user pri­vacy.

“It’s not the city’s job to stif le this kind of in­no­va­tion,” said Har­vey Slater, a rental host who tes­ti­fied at a City Coun­cil meet­ing Tues­day against back­ing the state law.

Bonin and other sup­port­ers counter that cities can­not en­force any rules with­out the re­quested in­for­ma­tion, which does not in­clude per­sonal data such as renters’ names. Un­der ex­ist­ing city codes, rent­ing out rooms or a whole home for short stays al­ready is il­le­gal in most res­i­den­tial stretches of Los An­ge­les. But city of­fi­cials have said it is ex­tremely chal­leng­ing to en­force the rules, partly be­cause many web­sites do not list rental ad­dresses.

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