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WeHo Having a Tough Time Enforcing Short-Term Rental Restrictions

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A new report says nearly two percent of all units in the city are listed on Airbnb

Last year, West Hollywood became one of a growing number of Southern California cities to impose tough regulations on short-term rentals. As WeHoville reports, those restrictions made it illegal to rent homes, apartments, or even individual rooms for less than 31 days at a time—all but outlawing the types of rentals commonly found on such websites as Airbnb.

But a new report from the city’s public works department indicates these new rules are largely ignored.

Nearly two percent of WeHo’s 25,000 residential units are listed on Airbnb, and 170 code compliance cases have been opened against properties, according to the report. Plus, penalties—which were meant to deter landlords from taking residential units off the rental market—have proven ineffective. The fine for a first violation is $250. That increases to $450 and $850 for second and third violations.

So the West Hollywood City Council is considering a new fees that punish violators based on the cost of the unit in question. First violations would result in a fine that is 200 percent of the unit cost, with second and third violations going up to 300 and 400 percent, respectively. Subsequent violations are prosecuted as misdemeanors. Increasing fines could have an outsize effect on renters or small property owners looking to rent a single room, the report notes.

There are also administrative issues. The report says tipsters reporting violations often leave out crucial details about listings, leaving city employees to figure out whether the violations are legitimate. As a result, city staffers are now actively seeking out violators, apparently scrolling through listings on Airbnb and insideairbnb.com.

But that's not foolproof. Airbnb listings don’t always include specific addresses or photographs showing recognizable features of a home. And, the city has found that many rental units ostensibly located in WeHo actually fall outside the city’s boundaries. Because of these issues, the authors of the report note, "it is not uncommon for Code Compliance to spend more than an hour, sometimes two, on a single listing to find the necessary information to begin the citation process."

The report will be reviewed Monday by the West Hollywood City Council. Recommendations of the report include the dedication of more staff time to enforcement and an outreach campaign informing residents about the details of the new restrictions. The authors also advise against possible exemptions for the short-term rental ban around holidays and city events like Halloween Carnaval and the LA Pride Parade.