GM has written about Airbnb several times in the past. The service enables people to rent out a room or a whole house on a nightly basis. GM first wrote two years ago about how the service had arrived in Georgetown. Later that year GM wrote about how it appeared that more investors were buying Georgetown properties with the intention of renting them out on Airbnb. And then last year, GM wrote about how the city was taking its first steps towards cracking down on the service.
Not too much has changed since. But GM has been hearing increased complaints about the service from residents who don’t like seeing neighboring properties rented out this way. GM hasn’t heard any stories of houses being rented out as party houses, but people still object to the steady stream of new people appearing then disappearing on their block.
As described in New York Times yesterday, San Francisco started fining Airbnb $1,000 a day for each homeowner who illegally rented out his or her property. It’s important to realize that in many, many cases (perhaps even most) homeowners are not really allowed to rent out their home in this fashion. It’s certainly the case for Georgetown. The reason is that to rent out a space for less than 30 days typically makes the property a hotel. And hotels typically have to be licensed (and pay taxes). Moreover, hotels typically are not allowed to open in areas zoned for residential. So you couldn’t get the license even if you tried.
(Airbnb is fighting the San Francisco law on first amendment grounds, which seems like a stretch to GM. This is clearly commercial speech, and can be regulated as such.)
While DC has taken a few steps to crack down on particularly flagrant abusers of the law, it has mostly taken a hands off approach to Airbnb. And it has grown. When GM first wrote about this, there were about 18 properties listed on Airbnb for Georgetown. Now there are more than 30.
What has been your experience with properties being used in this way? GM has at least two within a block of him. He doesn’t really have any complaints, but would probably feel different if it were much closer to his house. Any complaints? Any homeowners that have used the service themselves?
The city is not going to do anything about it unless it hears a lot of complaints. If there aren’t any, then so be it. But GM has been hearing rumblings and wanted a wider survey of experiences.