Santa Monica Airbnb hosts, there’s good news and bad news.
City Council will consider an ordinance on Tuesday that would allow certain short-term rentals but crack down on others — ones that are currently illegal but have gone largely unenforced.
Short-term rentals, like those advertised on sites like Airbnb and VRBO, let residents host tourists in their homes in exchange for cash.
The proposed ordinance would reiterate the fact that vacation rentals are unlawful in Santa Monica. It would also likely result in the hiring of two new Code Enforcement officers and one administrative analyst dedicated to shutting down the hundreds of vacation rentals that are currently operating in the city.
On the flip side, the ordinance would allow, with many restrictions, home-sharing: The rental of a space for less than 30 days while at least one of the primary residents lives on-site throughout the stay.
These home-sharers would have to, among many other things, register with City Hall, pay both a business license tax and a transient occupancy tax, and abide by rent control laws.
The ordinance would also require the platforms, like Airbnb or VRBO, “to disclose to the City on a regular basis as determined by regulations promulgated to enforce the Home-Sharing Ordinance, including the name of the host, the address of each listing, length of stay for each listing, and the price paid for each stay.”
City officials have long noted that most of the estimated 1,700 short-term rentals listed in the city are likely illegal for one reason or another but enforcement has been slow coming. Landlords, frustrated with the lack of enforcement, have resorted to stinging their own tenants.
Between July and February, 47 enforcement cases were initiated and 10 citations issued, according to city officials. There are 13 cases currently in the “active enforcement” stage.
“Vacation rental enforcement cases are extremely-resource intensive because it can be very difficult to verify the violation,” city officials said in a report to council. “Unlike most other Code Enforcement cases, these violations are frequently not in plain view.”
Additionally, Code Enforcement is busier than ever.
The average enforcement officer’s caseload more than doubled between fiscal year 2011-12 and fiscal year 2013-14.
This is “due to the additional programs added over the last two years, including leaf blowers, street performers on the Pier, vendors, trainers, surf instructors, pedicabs, and taxicabs,” city officials said.
The three new full-time positions would cost $410,029 next fiscal year and $266,898 in the following years.
City officials say that enforcement could generate up to $138,500 through the transient occupancy tax but noted that it will likely take several years before the enforcement is up to that speed.
Fines could generate up to $85,000 in revenue, city officials said, but noted that fines are largely unpredictable.
The report doesn’t mention what business license taxes might generate.
The issue of short-term rentals was broached at the last council meeting, on the draft Zoning Ordinance. Mayor Kevin McKeown made a late-night request that short-term rentals be regulated through an ordinance. After some discussion, his motion was passed unanimously. Council will consider the ordinance on Tuesday night.