Illegal Short Term Rental Listings Down, But Few Permits for Legal Ones Have Been Issued

New regulations have cut down the number of illegal West Hollywood listings on sites such as Airbnb, but only 11 residents so far have obtained permits to legally host short-term rentals. 

Despite the decrease in illegal listings, the number of citations issued in West Hollywood for illegal short-term rentals has also remained steady.

Permits for hosting short-term rentals have been available for almost eight months. City officials originally estimated that there would be about 200 issued in the first year. At $100 per permit, they projected $20,000 revenue from the first wave of participants, plus $10,000 each following year from a $50 renewal fee. 

The original estimated revenues, which also included $70,000 in transient occupancy tax per year, were based on the assumption that the city would allow renters and property owners to legally host short-term rentals, but the City Council last year decided to grant permits only to property owners.

Legalizing short-term rentals was also meant to help the city collect its own data on short-term rental activity, in addition to the information it receives from a contractor that monitors short-term rentals. But City Councilmember John Duran said the number of registrants thus far is “almost insignificant.”

“That just doesn’t give us enough data for analysis,” he said.

The City Council voted 3-2 in February 2018 to establish the short-term rental permits, which the city began issuing in December. A ban on short-term rentals had previously been in place.

Duran, who wanted renters to be included, was one of the two no votes.

Jason Record was one of several West Hollywood tenants who urged the council to include renters. When his partner, John Paradise, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2013, the Airbnb income from renting one of the two studio apartments they leased helped offset the medical costs. Paradise died in 2016. Record continued living in one of the studio apartments and renting the other on Airbnb, as he tried to re-establish the talent agency he and Paradise started years ago.

To avoid having housing units turned into de facto hotel rooms, West Hollywood and other cities have required hosts to make only their primary residences available for short-term rentals. But unlike West Hollywood, renters as well as home owners in cities including Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Francisco are allowed to receive short-term rental permits. Cities that allow renters to receive permits for short-term rentals, defined as stays of less than one month, also require that they get permission from their landlords. 

“They aren’t graduating with the times,” said Record, who left West Hollywood in December 2018 after 27 years and moved to Portland, adding that he would have struggled to afford West Hollywood without the Airbnb income.

Many other West Hollywood residents supported the prohibition for rental units. They mentioned the safety, security, parking and other concerns caused by a revolving door of visitors in their buildings when neighbors host Airbnb guests.

In San Francisco, which is about 25-times the size of West Hollywood in square miles and population, a short-term rental ordinance that issues permits to eligible residents has been in place since 2015. The list of permit holders is up to about 2,400, according to the city’s Office of Short-Term Rentals. Less than 16% are renters. To prevent profiteering off the affordable housing stock, tenants in rent-controlled units are not allowed to generate more per month in short-term rental income than they pay in rent. San Francisco does not allow short-term rentals in dedicated affordable housing.

Santa Monica also established short-term rental permits in 2015, and almost 400 have been issued, city records show.

In 2016, the first full year West Hollywood’s short-term rental ban was in effect, the city’s code compliance officers opened a total of 163 cases, which are initiated in response to complaints or other evidence of potential violations. Thirty-one citations were issued that year.

In 2017, the number of new cases dropped to 98, and there were 24 citations issued, followed by 93 cases and 25 citations in 2018.

This year, with short-term rental permits available for property owners, there were 43 cases opened through the end of June and 18 citations, a similar pace to years past. 

The majority of cases and citations are located west of Fairfax Avenue, closer to the Sunset Strip, Boystown and other areas frequented by visitors, based on data provided by the city.

Before they voted last year to establish the short-term rental permits for only property owners, Council members John Heilman, Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister said they had concerns about the effects on the city’s housing stock if rental units were included. On the low number of permit holders so far, Meister said the permits are still new, and eligible residents are still learning that they can apply. 

Duran, who also voted against the short-term rental ban that the council approved in 2015, said “the shared economy is the future,” and renters should be able to participate. 

“As policymakers, we should be ahead of the curve rather than lagging behind,” he said.

Mayor John D’Amico joined Duran last year in the minority vote against issuing short-term rental permits only to property owners, with concerns that it would do little to curtail illegal short-term rentals. D’Amico said he’s “not even going to guess” whether West Hollywood might eventually allow renters to legally use short-term rental platforms.

“The politics of home-sharing are muddied by the complexities in the housing market generally,” he said.


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Allen Edel
Guest
Allen Edel

The way around the rules is to get licensed by the county as a rehab facility. You don’t have to prove that any temporary renter is indeed an addict.

Joshua88
Guest
Joshua88

The shared economy in the housing market is a depressing future.

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

Clearly the number of people who registered hardly reflects the number of Air BnB units in West Hollywood. It would seem that a large number of Air BnB participants are not particularly impressed with the City’s ability to enforce its’ ordinance. Obviously the City did not pull the number 200 out of thin air and that was probably a conservative number for WeHo Air BnB. So how do we protect our housing stock?

Gimmeabreak
Guest
Gimmeabreak

What does airbnb have to do with our housing stock, Steve Martin?

carleton cronin
Guest

On my block: three illegal, one legal.

Larry Block
Guest
Larry Block

My ‘home sharing’ permit is #19-00001. Taxes are paid each month for 2019 and all of 2018 was also paid despite the fact that few others paid 2018 taxes. Its a pleasure to pay this tax. Its a pleasure to welcome my guests to a legal home share. Its a pleasure to be able to be open with my neighbors. Two years ago when Palm Springs instituted their home share program my condo could no longer qualify because I needed a letter from the condo association. The City of Palm Springs would go listing by listing and make a fake… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

Indeed, here, right over the border, in the city of Los Angeles, which is a huge bureaucracy, Airbnb has been collecting TOT for almost 3 years. Through the platform. I think Airbnb pushed for that, but regardless, the city of West Hollywood could make a deal with them very easily. I’m sure they collect this tax for more than just Los Angeles.

Constituent
Guest
Constituent

I love the hypocrisy in WeHo. They obligate a mom and pop owner to subsidize a complete stranger by making them turn over a studio apartment to one of their voters FOR LIFE at like $500 a month. Then these renters, who usually don’t come from underprivileged socio-economic circles (read single white males of above average income) have the audacity to state that they feel it’s their god given right to illegally sublet it out for $100 a night. And poor renter, if he wasn’t allowed to re-rent it for $100 x 30 = $3,000 a month and pocket 5x… Read more »

Curious
Guest
Curious

Who do you report someone to if they know a renter in an affordable rental building, rents their apartment out occasionally on a short-term basis. I have a neighbor like that.

Who Ya Gonna Call
Guest
Who Ya Gonna Call

Weho Code Compliance: 323-848-6375

Rob Bergstein
Guest
Rob Bergstein

323 848 6400. Code compliance. Code Compliance officer Jeff Jones handles any issues pertaining to short term rentals

blueeyedboy
Guest
blueeyedboy

Let me address the “revolving door of visitors” objection, which is compared to a hotel. At MOST there would be one AirBnB guest per day. At a hotel there are MANY guests coming and going throughout the day and night. My neighbors in my building have guests who are their friends, new acquaintances, and those who may come for business purposes, and IT IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS who they are or for what purpose they are on the property, whether it might include spending the night, nor what arrangement there may be with my neighbor that may include an… Read more »

blueeyedboy
Guest
blueeyedboy

Just to be clear, I’m talking about the resident who is present in the home while hosting guests. Of course, no reasonable person would approve of renting out to AirBnB a unit in which the host does not live. That would distort the city’s vacancy rates.

Rob Bergstein
Guest
Rob Bergstein

Yeah, here’s the huge difference….AirBnb and their ilk’s customers are complete strangers coming into residential buildings. They get keys, they get security codes.Complete strangers. Not a friend of the resident, not a family member, a complete stranger. Some come with their dogs whom they leave unattended while they’re out partying and the dogs howl all night. Some of them party all night keeping up the neighbors because they’ll be gone in a few days and really, who cares? They aren’t residents, they are hotel guests who face no consequences. Your “new gig economy” line is meaningless. The only person who… Read more »

Manny
Guest
Manny

Rob you nailed it. Right on!…..Looks like “blueeyedboy” didn’t “think about it” too much.

blueeyedboy
Guest
blueeyedboy

Rob Bergstein and Manny, I was an AirBnB host for two years in another state and NONE of the things you described ever happened, because I WAS THERE. Yeah, there are some nightmare stories in which someone is renting out a space in which the host does not reside, but that is not what I am talking about. I would not support such a scenario. I never had a guest even ask if they could bring a dog. I never had one do anything other than come in after a long day of doing business or being a tourist and… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

He was talking about hosted rentals. That is a big difference than what you are describing here. People that run businesses out of their homes often have complete strangers in them as well. For example, a new massage client? I have had over 500 Airbnb guests in my home that I own, and I am present for their stay. I have never, not one time had a problem with any of these guests. The city council agrees with both of us, as they allow for hosted rentals.

Josh Kurpies
Guest
Josh Kurpies

Are the addresses of the properties for which citations were issued available for the public to view without a CA public information act request? Do we know if issued citations were appealed and the outcome of any such appeal?

If the City doesn’t have this available on their website, maybe WeHoVille might consider making the list available online until the City can be convinced to do so?

Manny
Guest
Manny

What purpose would be served by revealing renters or property owners who were found guilty of an infraction? Local governments only expect compliance, they are not in the business of shaming.

Josh Kurpies
Guest
Josh Kurpies

I care little about the names of tenants and property owners and want to know the physical address of the properties because there’s a building on my street that couldn’t be more obvious about at least one of the units being used as a short term rental and so if it’s not on the list, I’m going to take the time to report it. If it’s on the list, then I know the City is already aware of the activities taking place.

That’s what I will be looking at the list for.

Manny
Guest
Manny

Here’s the solution to your dilemma….Just take the time to reported it. Multiple reports of this violation will only show that residents are noticing. If you don’t want to do that, just call code compliance and ask them if there is a case open on that property. Done!

Luke Harold
Guest
Luke Harold

Here’s a link to the data: https://github.com/lukeharold/weho-homesharing/blob/master/West%20Hollywood%20homesharing%20.ipynb If you scroll down a little, you’ll see a large table with all the addresses. To the right, there’s a total_paid column. The number on top is how much of the fine was paid, and the bottom number is the remaining balance (due to some sort of coding glitch, the total_balance column and the other columns to the right are not properly aligned). For the addresses that still show a balance, I don’t know if they are under appeal, but I guess that could be the case. Also, note that the table only… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
Guest
Josh Kurpies

Thank you!