Updated proposal for regulating AirBnB rentals

The Mayor and Council have updated their proposal for regulating short-term housing rentals, based upon negative feedback they received from their first proposal.

(see here for details of the original proposal)

The new proposal is intended to address the case of people who own a second home in the area. Some do it so that family can stay there when visiting; others bought it to eventually retire or “downsize” to it. In either case it wasn’t purchased for the purposes of a short-term rental business but the extra income from listing it on AirBnB makes it affordable.

Under the original proposal, if it isn’t the owners’ primary residence they can only rent it out up to 90 nights per year in short-term rentals. Under the new proposal, second homes can be “grandfathered” in, if the owners had a business license prior to June 1, 2016 for that property, and they have proof that they have paid applicable taxes for renting it out. Its status as a rentable secondary residence would be valid for 10 years from the effective date of the new regulations, or until the property is sold, whichever comes first.

Additionally, the city is concerned that platforms such as AirBnB and VRBO might not be willing to cooperate with the more complicated parts of the regulations, such as verifying that after 90 days of rentals their operators in Seattle have the proper “short term rental operator’s license.” So under the new plan, all operators renting out properties in Seattle will be required to have an operator’s license — and will be required to include their license number in all advertising for their rental.

These changes provide no relief for those who are running larger-scale short-term rentals across multiple properties; that will still be illegal. They will receive little sympathy from the city or the City Council, however, since they are essentially running a geographically-distributed hotel in single-family neighborhoods. They are violating zoning laws and lodging regulations, and taking long-term housing off the market.

The new proposal will be discussed Wednesday morning in the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee.