Boston mayor seeks new rules for short-term rentals
- Feb 16, 2018 | Jennifer Sokolowsky
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has filed a proposed ordinance that regulates short-term rentals in an attempt to allow residents to make extra money from their property without depleting the city’s already tight supply of long-term rental housing.
The proposal divides short-term rentals into three different categories:
- Limited Share Units offer a room for guests while the host stays in the unit. The annual city fee for these types of units is $25 and there is no limit on how many nights the rooms can be rented out.
- Home Share Units are operators’ primary residences where they live at least nine months out of the year. These are rented out when the owner is not present, for a maximum of 90 days a year. The annual fee for this type of property is $100.
- Investor Units are non-primary residences that are rented as whole units without the owners present. Short-term rentals of these are also limited to 90 days a year and the city’s annual fee is $500.
The new rules would also require short-term rental operators to register, and the city hopes to come to an agreement with short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb to share their host data so the city can better enforce the rules.
Last fall, affordable-housing and neighborhood activists staged a protest in downtown Boston, expressing that short-term rentals are displacing low-income residents and deepening the city’s housing crisis.
The mayor’s office estimates that there are 5,500 active short-term rental listings in Boston, with 2,000 of those whole units listed full time. The average unit is rented 230 nights per year. According to a report by Community Labor United, 12 percent of Boston Airbnb operators earn 45 percent of Airbnb revenue in the city, which could point to the presence of “power hosts” operating several short-term rental properties.
Failure to comply with the proposed law would result in fines of between $100 and $300 a day. But opponents of the proposal who want even stricter rules — allowing operators to rent out their primary residence only, for example — believe that the 90-day rule and other provisions of the law will be difficult to enforce, especially if the city fails to reach a deal with short-term rental platforms to release host-identifying data.
The proposal now moves to the City Council, which has 60 days to act on it before it goes into effect in its original form.
Massachusetts is the only state in New England that does not permit Airbnb to collect lodging taxes on behalf of its hosts, and that won’t change without a new law. Various proposals for regulating short-term rentals at the state level — including requiring operators to collect lodging tax from guests — have been in the works in the state Legislature over the past few years, but none has yet made it into law.