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LA now weighing tighter restrictions for Airbnb hosts

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Planning and Land Use Management Committee supports 120-day cap

Model Molly Sims at Airbnb's Hello LA event at The Grove on Monday, September 30, 2013 in Los Angeles. Photo by Chris Weeks/Getty Images for Airbnb

Some Los Angeles lawmakers are now backing a tighter cap on the number of days per year that Airbnb hosts can rent out their residences.

The City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee on Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of a 120-day limit. That’s more restrictive than the 180 days that the Planning Commission had recommended in June.

But hosts would be able to exceed that 120-day limit if they pay a fee of $1,149 and haven’t had any nuisance violations in the past three years.

“I think it’s fair that those who are good hosts ... good neighbors, be allowed to operate in excess of the cap,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, who chairs the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

The cap is just one rule in a larger set of proposed regulations on short-term rentals for sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway that have been debated in City Hall for more than two years.

Some LA residents, especially those living in popular vacation destinations such as Venice Beach, say short-term rentals are wrecking communities.

“It’s impossible to know who your neighbors are when you have different people staying there every night,” says Hollywood Hills resident Heather Siegel.

Most of all, critics says short-term rentals are exacerbating the housing crisis.

It’s far more lucrative for property owners to rent to vacationers than to long-term tenants. Of the approximately 23,000 homes and units available for rent in Los Angeles on short-term rental platforms, as many as 10,000 are used primarily for short-term rentals, according to Host Compliance LLC, a company that monitors short-term rental platforms.

Housing in Los Angeles is already on short supply. That’s one of the reasons why it costs so much to rent and buy here.

But many hosts have told local lawmakers that their short-term rental businesses have helped them pay their mortgages—and stay in their homes.

More than 1.4 million guests booked rooms on Airbnb in the city of Los Angeles last year, generating $42 million in tax revenue, according to Airbnb. The “typical” host, the company found, made $9,100.

Many hosts have argued that even an 180-day cap would hurt their businesses.

But, in August, Inside Airbnb, a website that monitors Airbnb listings, released a study that found LA landlords only need to fill up Airbnb units for 83 nights per year in order to make more money than they otherwise would by bringing in a yearlong renter.

That’s 37 fewer days than what the Planning and Land Use Management Committee is now supporting.

Tuesday’s vote brings Los Angeles one step closer to finally regulating short-term rentals—and making them legal. But the rules it endorsed Tuesday will be sent back to the Housing Committee and Planning Commission before heading to the full City Council for approval.