After years of debate over how to balance the benefits and problems created when people turn their homes into hotels, the Los Angeles City Council finally last December adopted rules to regulate short-term rentals advertised on Airbnb, VRBO and other websites.
Now, just two weeks before the city is to begin enforcing the regulations, online rental platforms and the property owners who advertise on them are mounting an aggressive lobbying campaign to persuade the city to delay the rules, or throw them out and start over.
The council must not back down. Delaying the regulations would make a mockery of the city’s legislative process and stall the implementation of reasonable rules designed to curb “rogue hotels” and deter property owners from taking badly needed housing off the market.
Los Angeles’ home-sharing ordinance, which passed unanimously, strikes a balance between residents’ desire to earn money by catering to out-of-town visitors and the need to prevent monthly rental units from being converted into de facto hotels. The law — which went into effect July 1, with enforcement delayed until Nov. 1 — allows Angelenos to offer only their primary residence for short-term rentals, and for no more than 120 days a year. Second homes and investment properties are not eligible for such rentals. Hosts have to register with the city, display a valid registration number on their advertisements and pay the same 14% occupancy tax the city imposes on hotels.
It’s worth noting that other big cities have been regulating short-term rentals for years now; Los Angeles is late to the game in adopting rules to prevent the large-scale commercialization of the sharing economy.
But that hasn’t stopped online platforms from trying to persuade city leaders to hit the brakes on the new regulations. Online platforms are required under the rules to submit booking information to the city. Airbnb sent a letter to the Planning Department last month asking for a delay so the company could build a computerized system to submit the data. Once it’s available, that system will make it much easier to enforce the new rules, but the city shouldn’t put them on hold just to wait for it, especially because the online platforms can submit host booking data in spreadsheets in the meantime.
For its part, VRBO wants L.A. officials to put enforcement on hold until the city develops rules allowing property owners to rent out second properties. But there’s no consensus on permitting vacation rentals; although some council members are open to the idea, others say it would allow property owners to take more long-term rental units off the market. Los Angeles shouldn’t wait another three years while city leaders re-debate short-term rental regulations.
Enough delays. If Los Angeles leaders are serious about solving the housing crisis, they’ll begin enforcing their short-term rental regulations as planned on Nov. 1.