Boston Airbnb regulations target tenants and investors who rent per night

The Boston City Council voted overwhelmingly on June 13 to impose new regulations on home-sharing sites such as Airbnb that operate in the city.

The 11-2 vote ensures the chamber could override any veto by Mayor Marty Walsh, although such a veto is unlikely as Walsh has called for limiting the use of such sites.

The new regulations target tenants and investors who rent apartments by the night. The rules largely spare smaller owner-occupied properties such as two- and three-family homes. Units of these can still be rented out if the owner is there.

The settlement also establishes a municipal registry for short-term rental hosts, who will have to pay a $200 fee to join. This registry will be publicly available, apparently making it easier for residents to find out who or what is renting space in their neighborhood through Airbnb.

The June 13 vote ends months of contentious debate on the topic and brings Boston closer to neighboring Cambridge when it comes to Airbnb regulations. Proponents of the rules say Airbnb and others are driving up cities’ already high housing costs. Opponents say the regulations deprive tenants and investors of additional income.

Enforcement should be a problem in boston, where any number of units can be rented through Airbnb each night. The rules come into effect on January 1, 2019.

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Airbnb released this statement after the vote:

For two years, Airbnb and our Boston hosts have worked closely with the mayor and city council members to share helpful data and collaborate on a fair home sharing policy. Today’s disappointing vote is proof that our community’s comments and concerns were not heard. The new ordinance unfortunately creates a system that violates the privacy of our guests and prevents Boston families from earning much-needed extra income in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. We hope there will be an ongoing discussion on these topics so that our community can continue to fight for their ability to share their home and make ends meet.

The hospitality trade group, the Massachusetts Lodging Association, which supported the new regulations on Airbnb, sent this statement:

Today, Mayor Walsh and the Boston City Council showed true leadership in acting to protect Boston from exploitation by wealthy out-of-town interests who have purchased thousands of homes to turn them into illegal hotels. Today’s action preserves the rights of real roommates while curbing the bad actors who are contributing to soaring Boston housing prices and wreaking havoc in many of our neighborhoods.

Now the state legislature must act to ensure that Airbnb pays its fair share of taxes and adheres to a common set of health, safety and non-discrimination rules across the Commonwealth.

Mayor Marty Walsh plans to sign the legislation.

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