New Bill In DC City Council Wants To Crack Down On Airbnb Rentals

Jonah Bennett | Contributor

A new bill proposed before the D.C. City Council Tuesday would crack down on residents offering their apartments up for rent through the online service Airbnb and bring an end to the virtually unregulated industry.

The practice of residents using Airbnb to rent out empty space in their homes or apartments is rapidly increasing, but city council member Kenyan McDuffie proposed legislation Tuesday requiring residents who want to share their homes on a short-term basis to pay for a new business license, WAMU reports.

Not only would the bill mandate the purchase of a business license, but it also states that residents must live and be present in the property they rent out and can only rent out one housing unit. Airbnb would be forced to publish business license numbers. There is one exception to the live-in rule. Hosts are allowed to offer their unit as a vacation rental without personally being there, so long as the rental doesn’t extend for more than 15 nights cumulatively in a year.

This prevents residents from generating revenue from a second property using Airbnb.

Violating any of these provisions comes with harsh penalties, and it’s not just the resident who would be targeted by the fines. Rather, the host could be staring down fines of anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000, and Airbnb itself would have to pay $1,000 for every single illegal booking.

McDuffie’s legislation would allocate half of the funds generated from fines for an affordable housing fund.

“We have a serious affordable housing problem in the District of Columbia,” McDuffie said. “The demand just far surpasses the supply. Part of the problem, and part of the challenge, are these folks who are renting out units in neighborhoods that are zoned for people to live in homes. We want to make sure we clear and put in place a regulatory scheme that clarifies the dos and the dont’s.”

Low-income residents have complained that Airbnb has dramatically reduced the supply of affordable housing in the city.

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