LA, Airbnb launch system to help enforce rental rules

Los Angeles and Airbnb have launched a new system to help the city unearth and remove illegal ads from the online platform, a step that LA officials say is critical to enforcing its rental restrictions. of houses for short stays.

The new system “will dramatically streamline the process of identifying and removing illegal short-term rental listings,” Planning Department spokesman Yeghig Keshishian said in an email. “In many ways, this is the missing piece of the puzzle.

Los Angeles struggles to crack down on illegal rentals: More than a year after new rules to protect housing and limit short-term rentals took effect, a Times analysis found that thousands of unregistered ads remained on Airbnb. City officials recently estimated that more than 6,000 ads on the platform were non-compliant.

City law requires short-term rental hosts to register with the city, which checks whether they meet key requirements such as renting their own “primary residence” rather than a second home or vacation rental. an investment property. Advertising an unregistered rental, which is illegal, could be a way for thugs to try and dodge city rules.

The new system, announced on Monday, makes it easier for Airbnb and the city to share information and remove illegal ads from the platform. Planning officials said they were already able to remove more than 1,350 ineligible ads in last week’s test.

“Airbnb is the only platform that has developed a one-of-a-kind system that helps both the city and the hosts who share their homes responsibly,” said John Choi, head of public policy for Airbnb in California from South.

Tenant and neighborhood groups had complained that delays in rolling out this system had hampered the app: Under an agreement between Airbnb and the city, the platform was to start a number of listings “Categorically ineligible” identified by the city but did not have to remove any. further illegal registrations until the new system is in place.

City workers also complained about the delays. Emails obtained by The Times as part of a public registration request show that in February, a city planner told Airbnb that “management is extremely dissatisfied with their progress … and strongly questions the Airbnb’s sincerity in carrying out the project “.

In May, another city planner complained that “Airbnb’s commitment of sufficient resources to this task had not started in a timely manner.”

Choi responded to that email noting that the company had suffered layoffs that directly affected the team working on the system.

Airbnb, in turn, has repeatedly voiced concerns over the past year to the city about getting information quickly on city guidelines that would help the company design the new system, the e- company mails at the city fair. The key guidelines for hosting the platforms were not approved until last fall, months after the ordinance went into effect.

In June, Airbnb first announced it was launching the long-awaited system. Then Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office put those plans on hold: Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar said the decision stemmed from a June memo urging city departments to assess how any new policy would affect revenue of the city as LA rushed into a budget crisis.

Planning director Vince Bertoni warned in a July email to a Garcetti aide that delaying the new system “would severely limit” enforcement. Bertoni said Airbnb had been “immune” to many requirements under the LA ordinance as a result of the deal, and “no other host / platform has this protection.”

Bertoni added that the rollout of the new system could also help the city’s battlehouses that functioned as unregistered Airbnb listings, responding to a concern Garcetti raised publicly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Planning officials also argued in a report that cracking down on illegal Airbnb rentals would likely not reduce revenue from accommodation taxes, as most travelers would simply book legitimate rentals instead. Comisar said last week that after finance officials reviewed the report, “we immediately gave them approval to go ahead with implementation.”

Groups who had complained about enforcement issues said they were happy to see the system in place. “Short-term rentals can be regulated if the city aggressively enforces the law it passes, and so far that has not happened,” said James Elmendorf, policy director of the Los Alliance. Angeles for a new economy.

Now, “the real test will be whether the city fines both these hosts and the platforms that illegally list them,” he said.

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