New short-term rental rules go into effect in Boston

If you rent out your home on sites like Airbnb or HomeAway, you must now register with the City of Boston.

A new order to regulate short-term housing rentals goes into effect Tuesday in Boston. In addition to the registration requirement, the ordinance also prohibits people from making short-term rentals in units they do not live in (aka investor units).

“It effectively fills the business gaps that existed when companies occupied entire buildings, moved all tenants and operated de facto hotels where hotels would be illegal under the zoning code,” said Boston City Councilwoman Michelle Wu, in a telephone interview.

The city believes the so-called investor units have siphoned off much-needed housing from Boston. Wu, who has led efforts to regulate short-term rentals, said there were “2,500 to 4,000 units that could be returned to the residential housing stock.”

“It would really have an impact on relieving pressure on housing prices and increasing supply,” Wu said.

The order, which was approved in June, allows people to rent homes they live in and own on a short-term basis (tenants are prohibited from operating short-term rentals). This includes a room in a unit, an entire unit, or an adjacent unit in a two or three family home. There is an annual listing fee for these short term rentals. Additionally, hosts face fines if they fail to comply with new rules.

The city’s ordinance is only partially in place, however, as some key parts of it are being held up in court due to a lawsuit filed by Airbnb. The company challenged the requirement that short-term rental companies share data with the city and a fine of $300 per night for each illegal listing they host. In his trial, Airbnb called the provisions “draconian” and argued that they violated state and federal laws. For the time being, the application of these fines and the data sharing rules are suspended. Airbnb declined to comment further on the lawsuit.

The (partial) implementation of Boston’s short-term rental rules begins hot on the heels of major state-level legislative action. Last week, Governor Charlie Baker signed state legislation to tax and regulate short-term rentals. Wu said the state bill, which will also create a statewide registry and database, reinforces what the city is trying to do with local data sharing rules. .

Mayor Marty Walsh also welcomed the state bill.

“With this state legislation, Boston looks forward to implementing our order on January 1 and adopting additional state-provided companion tools,” Walsh said in a statement.

the state bill comes into force on July 1 and gives cities and towns the option to impose their own regulations on short-term rentals – or ban them altogether.

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