Vacation Rental Advocacy and Regulatory Update

    Across the U.S., from Beaufort, North Carolina to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, I have been tracking local and state legislation that unfairly regulates vacation rental properties. In many cases, the news stories and ordinances read the same. However, there is a growing trend for only primary home rentals or severely restricted secondary home rentals.

    In past years, we have seen that many communities were banning homestays or home sharing and allowing traditional second home rentals. The trend is shifting to allowing homestays and home sharing and disallowing second homes rentals. Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver and many more communities are all restricting secondary home rentals for only a handful of days a year, if at all. The housing affordability question is driving this trend. Three major metropolitan areas have debated this issue and have proposals or recently passed ordinances.


    On June 1, 2016 Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Tim Burgess introduced a proposal limiting second home rentals for up to 90 days. Councilmember Burgess states that short-term renting dangerously reduces the housing supply in Seattle. Many opponents to his proposal note that there are not enough second homes to affect housing or rent prices. The U.S. Census calculates that there are only 3,322 secondary housing units out of Seattle’s 684,451 housing units, which is only .007 percent of the housing stock. Councilmember Burgess admits that his proposal will probably only affect an estimated 300 properties in the city. VRMA Board Member Michelle Acquavella participated in a Seattle Channel roundtable discussion on the topic and noted that many property owners with second homes won’t rent on the long-term rental market. She noted that the city’s only accomplishment will be closing small legal businesses like the one she has spent years building.


    A similar argument was made in Denver earlier this year and opponents of short-term renting were able to make it “unlawful to operate a short-term rental in any location that is not the applicant’s primary residence.” That ordinance passed and licenses will be available starting July 1, 2016, and all short-term rentals must be licensed by December 31, 2016.

    Los Angeles

    Los Angeles is currently in the process of debating its regulations. The initial proposal banned nonprimary home rentals. A Planning Commission amendment has since added language that will allow second home rentals to occur for up to 15 days a year. The Los Angeles Short-Term Rental Alliance has been advocating hard for all participants in the short-term rental marketplace. They have received support from numerous organizations, including the a letter written by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stating that, "Restrictions would ultimately put many STR (short-term rental) operators out of business, hurt Los Angeles’ tourism economy and encroach on the privacy of the city’s residents and visitors," further stating that, "It’s estimated that for every dollar spent on an STR, $4 to $5 more are spent in the local economy."

    Public sentiment on our side

    A recent Pew Research Center survey found that only one in five Americans have heard of the debate over the legality of home-sharing services. The study also found that 82 percent of those who knew of home-sharing services believe that the practice should be legal.

    These two pieces of information show that once people learn of the regulatory issues we face they are inclined to support us. It is a matter of getting our public officials up to speed on public sentiment.

    VRMA members can help in this educational process by utilizing the Advocacy Toolkit’s issue-tracking tools to follow issues locally and at the state level. We have also included actionable alerts that allow you to write letters to public officials. These tools have helped our members and the public send over 2,100 letters to public officials in various communities. Visit the advocacy page often to learn more about the tools and issues we are following. 
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