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Boston to delay short-term rental rules while Airbnb lawsuit plays out


Boston Harbor lighthouse

In the face of a lawsuit by Airbnb, Boston has agreed to delay enforcement of parts of its new short-term rental rules that affect Airbnb and other online rental platforms such as VRBO and HomeAway.

The new law, one of the most restrictive in the country, was passed this summer and is set to go into effect on January 1.

Airbnb’s lawsuit takes issue with the portion of the law requiring short-term rental booking agents such as Airbnb to share data with the city and remove any hosts who break the rules — with $300 per-night fines for platforms for each illegal listing. Airbnb claims those provisions violate federal laws that protect online platforms from punishment for content.

Airbnb and Boston agreed that the fines against platforms and the data-sharing requirements wouldn’t be enforced until a judge rules on Airbnb’s request for an injunction while the case proceeds. Since the city has until January 15 to respond to Airbnb, and Airbnb has until February 12 to respond before a hearing can be held,

enforcement of those rules will probably be delayed until at least March.

The new rules also ban short-term rentals by owners who don’t live in the properties they rent out, as well as by renters. The law requires short-term rental hosts to register with the city every year and to pay annual fees of $25 to rent out a room and $200 to rent out an entire unit. Those rules will still be enforced beginning January 1.

Short-term rental hosts must also collect the state’s 5.7 percent room occupancy tax from guests and remit the taxes to the state. Hosts may allow online platforms to collect these taxes from guests at the time of booking and remit them on the host’s behalf. However, no short-term rental platform has yet come to an agreement on tax collection with the city.

In the meantime, short-term rental hosts using Airbnb or any other short-term rental platform are responsible for collecting the tax from guests themselves and remitting it to tax authorities beginning January 1. MyLodgeTax can help Boston hosts automate and simplify registration and collection of room occupancy taxes.

More changes could come for short-term rental hosts in Boston if a statewide bill is passed. The bill, which would create a statewide short-term rental registry, passed both houses of the Legislature this summer, but was sent back for changes by Governor Charlie Baker after the session was over.


Avalara Author
Jennifer Sokolowsky
Avalara Author Jennifer Sokolowsky
Jennifer Sokolowsky specializes in writing about tax and legal topics. She relishes the challenge of translating legalese into information that is accurate, useful, and easy to understand.