Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Santa Monica Council Bans Short-Term Rentals

5/20/15 - Hundreds of property owners, especially those living in vacation destinations, rely on the income that they earn when they rent out their homes, condominiums, or spare bedrooms to short-term visitors. Because of new laws passed in Santa Monica, these individuals may find themselves struggling to find tenants. Tim Logan, in his L.A. Times article, discusses the implications of Santa Monica’s law banning short-term rentals.

Tourists who come to places like Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco are not generally there for a month at a time, but that is what this law will require. The law, in an effort to deter short-term renters and protect the hotel industry, bans rentals that last less than 30 days, and force individuals renting out a room to pay extra taxes similar to those paid by hotels. This, however, is not to say that the Santa Monica officials are only interested in protecting hotels. The council claims to be introducing these regulations in response to the complaints of annoyed neighbors and advocates for affordable housing in the neighborhood.

Home-sharing, the term given to the practice of renting out a room for a short period of time, has grown exponentially over the past few years. Websites like Airbnb, on which people post their rental listings, have become the place to look for anyone needing a place to live, albeit on a short-term basis. According to Logan, the home-sharing industry is booming and unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Profits are large and demand is high, so even with the new laws, people will likely find some way to keep doing what they are doing.

Some people providing housing through Airbnb are entrepreneurs, managing multiple residences and earning money left and right. Others are elderly and retired, who rent out their apartment when they go out of town to visit family. They encompass two ends of the spectrum, but both feel the same way: the regulations need to be changed. Many understand that home-sharing should be regulated to some extent; they just believe that an all-out ban is the wrong way to do it.

While some people fear that similar laws will be proposed in cities other than Santa Monica, Logan believes that the spread will be limited. Usage of online platforms like Airbnb is hard to keep track of, which is why the government may be afraid of its continued progression toward becoming an integral part of society. Logan recommends wariness when doing business with anyone, but especially with strangers met online. Some feel that laws and governmental oversight would reduce risks. Others believe that the government getting involved would just create hurdles and reduce profit. It's hard to tell which side is correct. Santa Monica may be the guinea pig that the rest of the country needs to test these risky waters.

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