A majority of the West Hollywood City Council agreed last night to rewrite the city’s ban on Airbnb and other short-term rentals to permit such rentals in owner-occupied houses and apartments with no restriction on the number of rental days each year.
In its review of an ordinance brought forth by several City Hll departments, the Council also agreed that a tenant must obtain written permission from the building owner before renting his apartment. A condo owner would have to obtain permission from his homeowners association. And the tenant or property owner would have to pay the same room tax charged to hotels, which is 12.5%
Anyone wanting to rent out a bedroom or couch to someone for 31 or fewer days would have to obtain a license from the city. The city’s Code Compliance Division has calculated the cost to the city of preparing an initial license as $175, but it proposed charging only $50, hoping to encourage hosts to obtain a license by making it more affordable. However, the Council decided to charge a fee of $100 for an initial license and a $50 annual renewal fee. The host would be required to be on-site at least four hours of each day a room is rented.
There would be a limit on the number of guests one could host. The number of occupants permitted, including permanent residents, is two times the number of bedroom plus two. In other words, a studio apartment can house two people and a one bedroom can house up to four. Occupants of inclusionary housing or owners of buildings whose tenants have been evicted under the Ellis Act during the previous seven years may not allow short-term rentals of their property.
The Council voted in October 2015 to ban all so-called “short-term rentals,” defined as those of 31 or fewer days. That ban was a response to concerns that some property owners were taking off the market apartments that would have been available to local residents and renting them to tourists at a higher rate. Some apartment building residents also complained about having unknown people entering their building. And there was a concern that short-term rentals would compete with the city’s hotels, whose room tax is one of the largest single generators of revenue for the city.
A number of local residents spoke out last night in favor of removing the ban, some saying they couldn’t afford their apartments without being able to rent out a spare room.
The Council debated whether to require hosts of short-term rental units to have liability insurance, something that is automatically offered by Airbnb, the largest marketer of such units. It also debated whether to remove the cap on the number of days that one could rent out a room. The initial proposal was 90 days, which was changed to 180 days after residents spoke at various city commission meetings in favor of a longer period. The Council also discussed whether to require the city to collect a room tax from those that if finds are doing short-term rentals without a city license.
Ultimately the Council decided not to require liability insurance or try to collect a tax from those renting illegally. Instead it would take steps to stop such rentals.
The city’s Code Compliance Division will look into working with Airbnb and other such services to collect the room tax and forward it to the city. The city also has contracted with Host Compliance, a firm that monitors short-term rentals listed on dozens of websites to determine whether they comply with local laws.
A final version of the ordinance with the changes recommended by the City Council will come back to the Council at a future meeting for its approval.