WeHo Council Will Consider New Fines for Short-Term Rentals

The City of West Hollywood has decided to take a more aggressive stand against short-term rentals of residential property. According to a report from the city’s Department of Public Works, a city staffer now looks for listings on such properties on websites such as airbnb.com rather than only reacting to complaints from residents.

The report, which goes before the city council at its meeting on Monday evening, also suggests changing the system for fining landlords and tenants for violating the city’s short-term rental ordinance. That ordinance, adopted in October last year, prohibits the rental of any home or apartment or any part of a home or apartment for a period of less than 31 days. Violators are now fined $250 for the first offense, $450 for the second and $850 for the third. Additional violations are designated as misdemeanors.

VRBOThe report notes that those fines are too low for someone who will rent an entire house for thousands of dollars, while they may be exorbitantly high for someone renting a room for $50 a night to help pay his or her rent. The Public Works Department recommends the fine be calculated as a percentage of the advertised rate for the rental. The first citation would carry a fine of 200% of the advertising rate, which would grow to 300% with a second citation and 400% for a third citation. The report notes that the average rate in West Hollywood for units on Airbnb is $140 a night.

The report also recommends against a proposal discussed by the council to make short-term rentals legal during holidays or major events such as Halloween Carnaval or LA Pride. It notes that those units might be used for parties that would upset their neighbors.

So far residents have filed 158 complaints about short-term rentals through PublicStuff, a mobile app. The report notes that the number of complaints filed in person or via email or letters or texts is difficult to calculate. But the city’s Code Compliance staff has opened 170 cases. Of those, 28 have been closed because property owners or renters agreed to comply with the city’s ordinance. The city has issued 17 citations to people not complying with the ordinance.

MisterbnbThe city council initially instructed Code Compliance to respond to complaints rather than actively seeking violators, which would be a time-consuming task. Now, however, because of complaints from residents, Code Compliance uses various tools to search for properties listed online as short-term rentals. One of those tools is insideairbnb.com, which only focuses on Airbnb. Among the other sites offering short-term rentals are MisterBnB, Flipkey, Homeaway and VRBO.

The report notes that insideairbnb.com reported 659 listings in West Hollywood. However it doesn’t update its listings report daily. Another issue is that the city’s irregular border makes it hard to determine if a property is really in WeHo. Of the 659 listings noted by insideairbnb.com, 65% are for entire homes or apartments.

Residents have complained about short-term rentals, arguing that they bring strangers into their apartment complexes who may misbehave. There also is concern that some landlords are removing their properties for the rental market and using them solely for short-term rentals — in effect turning them into small hotels.

The council will consider the report at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica. Parking is available in the five-story structure behind the chambers and is free with a ticket validated in the chamber lobby.

Other items on the council’s agenda include:

— A proposal by Mayor Lauren Meister that the city develop policies and procedures for special events. That proposal comes after criticism of Christopher Street West http://www.lapride.org/ (CSW), which puts on the annual LA Pride, for this year’s handling of the event. The policies would be added to existing guidelines for events that the city promotes or helps sponsor. Among the policies suggested are disclosure of a non-profit’s federal tax return and event budget. CSW has been criticized for not making its tax returns available for public inspection. While CSW’s president said in June that it would make its 2015 tax return public, to date it is not available on its website nor are past returns. Those returns can be found on WEHOville.com.

— A review of a survey of West Hollywood residents regarding their perception of the service offered by the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, with which the city contracts for public safety. The survey, conducted by an outside consultant, found overall satisfaction with the service although their also were concerns that some officers were dismissive and seemed uninterested in complaints from residents.


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Mike Dolan
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Mike Dolan

@Robert Muniz: We’ll stated! I like how you also point-out it’s not just about rentals but property owners inclusive. No one, landlord, tenant, property owner, has the exclusive right to profit of the back of their neighbors. West Hollywood was partially founded to protect those who could not financially fight those who would take advantage and promote a revolving-door policy, like Airbnb, with their leased or owned property and its hidden hazard’s that come with this Profiteering. Living next door to – or on a block, neighborhood… of the size of our city; does not allow for and should not… Read more »

Mike Dolan
Guest
Mike Dolan

@Robert Muniz: We’ll stated! I like how you also point-out it’s not just about rentals but property owners inclusive. No one, landlord, tenant, property owner, has the exclusive right to profit of the back of their neighbors. West Hollywood was partially founded to protect those who could not financially fight those who would take advantage and promote a revolving-door policy with their leased or owned property and its hidden hazard’s. Living next door or on a block, neighborhood… of the size of our city does not allow and should not allow a community of our size founded on affordable housing… Read more »

Robert C
Guest
Robert C

In Los Angeles the proposal from the Planning Department soon on the Agenda for City Council is to limit primary home rentals under 30 days to 180 days per year which to some might seem reasonable, to others it’s their livelihood at stake. There is no requirement for the Host to be present because they claim there is no way to confirm as @Manny mentioned. However, it’s actually really easy to confirm who owns a property and/or who is the primary resident and hold them each responsible! Commercial operators generally with three or more units are not the primary resident… Read more »

Robert Muniz
Guest

For all of those Republicans griping about “limited government” and “property owners rights” it’s called Zoning (which the supreme court has upheld as legal) and Rent Stabilization. You bought or rented your property knowing full well what the laws were. You moved into a residential neighborhood not a hotel or motel which is zoned for short term use. Just like driving on the wrong side of the road will get you cited and possibly arrested, illegally using your residential property for commercial use, in violation of the zoning laws, in an area not zoned for commercial use, will get you… Read more »

Jonathan Simmons
Guest
Jonathan Simmons

I am not a Republican. I am a democrat far to the left of center. We need government (locally, party irrelevant, only government elected by residents with purpose of each elected weho leader Focused ON THE residents best needs, wants and desires, within the available limited municipal laws applicable. WeHo has the opposite. Elected leaders and city hall staff clearly only working for the financial benefit of non resident Private Developers. The City does put a lot of effort making it appear the are doing everything possible for residents, pointing fingers at other people and literally representing that “the law… Read more »

Jimmy Palmieri
Guest

The building I live in, does not allow tenants to sublet through airbnb or other services. I am glad, as we have enough non residents sleeping on the roof, using the pool and gym, and terrorizing tenants till 3 in the morning. Oh, I called the sheriffs one time when a non tenant was harassing everyone till 3. The service they provided by answering the phone was tremendous!!! Picked it up on the 3rd ring. . NOTHING AFTER THAT, or 3 susbsequent calls.

J Simmons
Guest
J Simmons

Rigjt. Many if not most condos and apartment buildings/leases have, do and are allowed to have all kinds of existing and condos can and do add more anytime a majority votes for it. This article is blaming a large existing problem due to landlords not enforcing existing lease restrictions. I find that unbelievable and is unfairly pointing fingers at anyone they can to rationalize THE GOVERNMENT’S NEED TO LEGISLATE. I haven’t known any SB&B in my area. Yet wehoville had repeatedly written numerous articles about this tiny issue making enormous changes to weho. BUT why? Whst is wehovilles motivation to… Read more »

Manny
Guest
Manny

It is impossible to confirm or enforce the presence of the host.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Thank you Robert C. Precisely. I own my duplex. I live in my unit. I am present when guests are there. And I should have the right to continue doing that, for as long as I see fit. Thankfully, I’m just over the boarder into Los Angeles, but there are massive, over-reaching restrictions that are going to the LA City Council in September, which will restrict all AirBnB listings, no matter what type of property (this will even apply to single rooms), or ownership status. The following cities allow “owner occupied” rentals as part of their short term rental ordinance:… Read more »

Ever Vigilant
Guest
Ever Vigilant

Leslie K and Robert C seem to understand the essence of this conflict. Further articulation in the code is necessary defining residential and commercial use, likewise code of conduct for apartment owners. Residents of condos or apartments are not legally required to accept the downside of profiteers that find ingenious ways to skirt the ordinance(s). Some apartment owners are using this as a device to essentially break the back of rent stabilization in order to maximize profits. There are units available for approv $150./night for 30/31 days with security deposits in excess of $5000. often not returned. This is a… Read more »

Ra756333
Guest
Ra756333

People are assuming that an occasional bad guest (which is very, very rare) means all guests are. Even without airbnb, Weho residents have guests coming in going from people they barely know who they met on apps, regular visitors or new one’s invited to a party, random new delivery/maintenance people, etc. all of which can be considered a nuisance. But govt. has no right to tell you who and who cannot visit or stay at your home, especially one’s where the host is on site and the property is owned (even if in a condo, etc.) It’s owned. And of… Read more »

Leslie K
Guest
Leslie K

@ Steve Garza @J Simmons: I think it’s fair to presume that the property owners whose rights you’re championing bought their properties knowing full well they were zoned for residential, not commercial, use. In addition, the right to enjoy your property does not extend to creating a nuisance and interfering with your neighbors’ right to the quiet enjoyment their property.

Ra756333
Guest
Ra756333

READ Robert C’s post. He gets it! Host must be present. Follow Santa Monica’s lead on this one. And fines should be for those with multiple listings who are truly acting as hotels rather than hosts. One has a right to have a visitor stay at their home and government has no right to infringe on this. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some people want a host, not a hotel. They want someone to guide them through the city or be there in ways a hotel just can’t.

Robert C
Guest
Robert C

“WeHo – Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water”. According to the Airbnb monitoring software Sublet, only 40 hosts in Los Angeles County, including, WeHo account for the majority of L.A.’s Airbnb / VRBO activity and countless others have multiple listings potentially accounting for up to 80% of all Short Term Rental properties. If the purpose of a law is to stop commercial proliferation, government should start by phasing out the problem culprits and only allow honest “Home-Sharing” activity to “registered” “Property Owners” and/or “Primary Residents” with “permission” and “joint accountability”. Profiteers taking advantage of the “Shared Economy”… Read more »