DC’s New AirBnB Law

In Real Estate by Richard Bianco

On Tuesday October 2, 2018, the D.C Council took a preliminary, unanimous, vote to enact one of the most stringent regulations in the Country on short-term housing rentals such as Airbnb , HomeAway, and VRBO.

If the bill becomes law in its present form, homeowners would only be allowed to rent out rooms in their main residence for 90 days per year while they are absent – so called “vacation rentals.” However, there is no limit on rentals while the host is present, i.e. spare bedroom “house sharing.”

The political horse sh#t

The somewhat strange bedfellows of affordable housing advocates and the Hotel Workers Union cheer the measure as aimed at protecting the housing stock and tourism industry jobs.

Airbnb and the District’s CFO complain that the stringent regulations cost the District tens of millions per year in tourism and tax dollars. Detractors further argue that the bill ‘picks-the-pockets’ of citizens who depend on the additional income in favor of huge hotel corporations.

In the intensely tenant protective rental housing climate of recent years it seems that the pols leap at anything containing the slightest whiff of “affordable housing.” So this is no real surprise.

Although Bowser has been less than enthusiastic about the proposed law she hasn’t outright opposed it. Also, some of the CMs seem a bit squishy on the restrictiveness of the regulations and we could see some additional carve outs before it passes. But, make no mistake this train is barreling down the tracks and is likely to pass in the legislative time crunch at the end of the current Council Period.

Staying in some goober’s guest room is weird

I’ve stayed in a couple of AirBnBs over the last few years, never while some dude was living there though. Doesn’t that creep folks out? You wake up and come downstairs and there is your host, Stanley, in his skivvies, doing laundry in the kitchen sink. I mean that has to be a deterrent.

DCRA is a cluster fu#k

How does the licensing authority intend to monitor how many days someone is away from their primary residence? DCRA can’t find their ass with both hands, how are they going to keep tabs on the comings and goings of 8,000 unit owners? They can’t possibly expect cooperation from the vendors. Are they going to mine through tax returns? Rely on self reporting? None of these seem particularly good options.

It will be interesting to see how the law develops over the next couple of weeks as the Council tries to beat the legislative deadline.