Most aspects of a proposal to permit short-term housing rentals in WeHo so long as the host is present were supported by the West Hollywood City Council last night, with the exception of allowing such rentals in apartment buildings.
The City Council considered a proposal by the city’s Department of Public Works that it allow such short-term rentals for 18 months, after which their impact would be analyzed to decide whether hosted short-term rentals should be continued. The department’s Code Compliance Division enforces city regulations that currently ban all short-term rentals, whether hosted or not.
The ban on un-hosted short-term rentals would continue. It was designed to prevent owners of housing from taking it off the city’s already tight residential market, thus contributing to rising rents. That ban also is intended to restrict competition with local hotels by unlicensed property owners who don’t pay the hotel room occupancy text or necessarily meet the safety requirements of hotels.
The council asked Code Compliance to bring the proposal back to a future meeting with more information to help it decide three questions:
— Should short-term rentals (defined as those of fewer than 31 days) be restricted to a total of 90 days a year for each property?
— Should the host of a short-term renter in an apartment or condominium be required to show proof that he or she has the written permission of the apartment building owner or of the condo association board?
— Should residents of rent-stabilized apartments be allowed to rent rooms or space out to short-term visitors?
Council members agreed that the homeowner associations of condominium buildings should have the authority to decide whether or not to permit short-term rentals of units in their buildings. While the Code Compliance proposal would require that someone hosting a short-term tenant in his or her apartment get the written permission of the building owner or manager, it doesn’t require that evidence of that permission be presented to Code Compliance when the host applies for a required city permit.
Dan Mick, the city’s code compliance supervisor, said the city wanted to make the process of obtaining a license easy and inexpensive so that more local residents would comply with the law. The city now bans all rentals of fewer than 31 days. But despite that ban, a study conducted for the city by Host Compliance, a firm that monitors online short-term rentals, found that as of March 2017 there were 1,012 short-term rentals available in West Hollywood. The city has roughly 24,500 housing units.
Councilmember John Duran supported requiring evidence of permission from an apartment landlord, noting that most leases ban short-term rentals and that such rentals with a landlord’s permission expose a tenant to possible eviction. Councilmember John Heilman said he didn’t support requiring evidence of permission, and Councilmember Lindsey Horvath said she was wary of “onerous provisions” of the regulation. Councilmember John D’Amico said he was concerned about a proposed requirement that hosts keep records of short-term visitors over several years. Such records, D’Amico said, would have to be made available to the public and landlords. D’Amico was an opponent of the council’s original ban on short-term rentals, noting that they were part of a changing economy that the city needed to learn how to adapt to rather than attempt to ban.
The council also heard from local residents, some of who supported the Code Compliance proposal and some of whom spoke against certain aspects of it. David Warren asked that the council not approve short-term rentals in rent-stabilized apartments and that it not allow short-term renters to obtain city street parking permits.
Justin Tindall said that he and his partner have a two-bedroom apartment and need to rent the second bedroom in order to afford their rent, which typically is high in West Hollywood. Tindall said using that bedroom for short-term stays would be easier than finding a compatible roommate. Joyce Heftel, who identified herself as a condo owner, argued for stricter controls on short-term rentals. Referring to residents who said they need to rent out an extra room to be able to pay their rent, Heftel said the people who can’t afford to live in West Hollywood shouldn’t live in West Hollywood.
Code Compliance will return to a future City Council meeting with a revised proposal that addresses the council’s concerns.
The Code Compliance proposal that was presented to the City Council recommended the following:
— Home sharing be allowed only for units that serve as the host’s primary residence. The host must live at the residence for at least 270 days per year.
— Hosts must occupy the residence during the guests’ stay and be able to respond in person within one hour of being contacted by city staffers or a law enforcement officer.
— Someone wanting to rent out a room in a condo or apartment must get permission from the property owner or the condo homeowners association. “Staff recommends allowing the applicants to self-certify that they have obtained the requisite permission. Requiring an applicant to submit a notarized document can be time-consuming and may deter participation.”
— Hosts be required to obtain a license or permit, renewable yearly, at a fee low enough to encourage participation in the program. The license could be revoked after two or more noise complaints.
— The host pay the same room tax as do hotels.
— Advertisements for rooms include a city license or permit number and the rooms must meet some minimum safety standards and include smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and a fire extinguisher.
— Hosts keep a log of all guests, dates of their stays and the rents paid by the guests for a period of three years. These logs should be made available to the city for inspection upon request.
— Hosts be held accountable for the actions of their guests and liable for all costs associated with the enforcement of the code.
— The number of people allowed to occupy a hosted apartment or house be limited to two people per bedroom and an additional two people. Thus a studio apartment could have only two occupants and a one-bedroom could house no more than four.