D.C. to start restricting and regulating Airbnb and other short-term rentals If you're renting out a spare bedroom or basement on Airbnb in D.C., there's some new requirements and restrictions you should be aware of.
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D.C. to start restricting and regulating Airbnb and other short-term rentals

As of April, new restrictions on short-term rentals booked on platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo will be enforced in D.C., a popular market for travelers. Tyrone Turner/WAMU/DCist hide caption

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Tyrone Turner/WAMU/DCist

D.C. will start implementing a three-year-old law this month that restricts and regulates short-term rentals booked on platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo, requiring hosts to get licenses and limiting how long anyone can rent out an entire apartment or house every year.

The law imposing new restrictions on short-term rentals passed the D.C. Council in late 2018 after more than a year of heated debate, but it wasn't until late Dec. 2021 that the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs said it was ready to start implementing and enforcing it. The agency will start accepting license applications for short-term rentals on Jan. 10, and start enforcing the law's provisions in April.

The law applies specifically to short-term rentals, those lasting less than 30 days at a time. Under the new law, any D.C. homeowner who wants to rent out a bedroom, basement, or entire home on Airbnb or any other platform has to get a short-term rental license from DCRA. (The two-year license costs $104.50.)

If the owner is present in the home during the rental (say they post their basement unit for Airbnb), they can host short-term renters as long as they want over the course of each year. But if they are not present (say they are renting their primary home while they are gone during the summer), those rentals are limited to a combined 90 days each year. Short-term rental licenses are not allowed for second homes.

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Lawmakers crafted that distinction as part of what they said was a legislative balancing act — it allows people the ability to rent out spare bedrooms and basements to make some additional money, while preventing property owners and companies from using entire apartments and houses for short-term rentals instead of for long-term leases. Some argued this was driving up housing prices across the board, and the new restriction could have a significant impact in D.C.'s market for short-term rentals. According to AirDNA, which collects and analyzes data on short-term rentals in cities, 79% of D.C.'s active short-term rentals are listed as entire homes. (These types of rentals long predate Airbnb, which is now the most popular platform in D.C.)

The council passed its law around the same time that many jurisdictions around the country were considering new limits on short-term rentals, largely over concerns that they favored tourists over long-term tenants and caused disruptions in residential neighborhoods. Boston adopted its own law in 2019, while lawmakers in New York City are currently considering their own regulations on short-term rentals. Nowhere was the fight more contentious than in San Francisco, Airbnb's home, where the company spent aggressively on a 2015 ballot measure that rejected limits on short-term rentals.

In D.C., the company and its users argued that short-term rentals helped homeowners pay their mortgages and offered visitors distinct and neighborhood-based options for lodging, and that opposition to the platforms was fueled by the hotel lobby. Airbnb also said its hosts were contributing to city coffers by collecting the same sales and occupancy taxes that hotels do.

Similar laws restricting and regulating short-term rentals have been adopted throughout the Washington region, including in Alexandria, Arlington County, Montgomery County, and Fairfax County.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news site of WAMU.

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