The "sharing economy" works by taking ideas for existing businesses (hotels, cabs), making workers put up the initial investment (their apartments or cars), then pretending it's a whole new thing not subject to the same taxes and regulations as those original businesses. (Step 3: $$$$$) Short-term rentals like Airbnb, for instance, are illegal in most parts of Los Angeles, and it's rare that Airbnb "hosts" pay any taxes, as required by the city. Airbnb lets short-term landlords know they're subject to local laws but doesn't ensure they're actually following them, and the city legally can only collect from the landlords, not from the company itself. But now LA is making an attempt to go after these scofflaws: it's going to start sending "pay up" notices to people advertising short-term rentals in the city, reports the LA Times.
Other LA County cities have been a bit more hardass in going after law-breaking short-term landlords: Malibu issued subpoenas to sites like Airbnb to get a list of tax-evaders and West Hollywood has served cease and desists to people suspected of renting out their places illegally.
A couple weeks ago, the LA City Council also passed an action asking several departments to look into the city's relationship with "sharing economy" companies, especially short-term rental companies, including its zoning, taxation, insurance, and licensing policies. It says that "The [Planning and Land Use Management] Committee noted that the City should allow emerging industries to continue, but at the same time, the City should also recognize that regulation is needed in order to protect local communities." (One major complaint is that Airbnb landlords are pushing out long-term tenants and reducing an already short supply of housing.)
Meanwhile, the Airbnb-affiliated lobbying group Peers—which explicitly bases its tactics on cult recruitment techniques, insanely enough—has been working very hard in LA to fight just that kind of study and regulation of "sharing economy" companies like Airbnb, Uber, and TaskRabbit.
· L.A. to warn Airbnb hosts to start paying hotel-type taxes [LAT]
· The Few Places in Los Angeles Where Airbnbs Might be Legal [Curbed LA]
· Airbnb-Affiliated Lobbying Group Defeats Venice's Attempt To Regulate Vacation Rentals In Los Angeles [Curbed LA]