Mayor Walsh Sings City Ordinance to Regulate Short Term Rentals

Longtime Webster Street resident John McCarthy lives next to a property being used as an Airbnb. While he does not begrudge anyone from making a little extra money on the side, he feels there should be some sort of regulation.

Mayor Martin Walsh signs city ordinance to regulate short-term rentals.

“It’s getting out of control,” said McCarthy. “I’ll tell you, some of the people renting the Airbnb are not the people you want to live next to.”

McCarthy said he’s had to deal with loud parties, an increase in litter around his building and in the backyard, as well as the discomfort of not knowing who is coming and going week after week.

After months of complaints by residents like McCarthy the Boston City Council voted 11-2 last week in favor of creating an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb.

The ordinance to establish guidelines and regulations to better track and regulate short term rentals in the City of Boston was signed last Friday by Mayor Martin Walsh.

“My goal in regulating short-term rentals has always been to responsibly incorporate the growth of the home-share industry into our work to create affordable housing for all by striking a fair balance between preserving housing while still allowing Bostonians to benefit from this new industry,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am proud to sign this ordinance and I am committed to monitoring the impacts to ensure it serves its intended purpose in our neighborhoods.”

This ordinance will go into effect on January 1, 2019, with a provision allowing current lease holders operating short term rentals the opportunity to continue operating until September 1, 2019. The proposal was originally filed by the Mayor in January, resubmitted by the Mayor in May, with further amendments contributed in collaboration with the Boston City Council and conversations with residents, advocates, and public and private stakeholders, all following two years of careful study and consideration by the Walsh administration.

The ordinance signed by the Mayor allows owner-occupants to list their own unit, a part of their unit or an adjacent whole unit in their building as a short-term rental for 365 days per year while prohibiting ownership or operation of short-term rental units by outside investors.

The ordinance creates a public registry of short-term rentals and completely exempts lodging houses, bed and breakfasts and certain corporate housing with established contracts with educational, medical or other institutions from regulation as a short-term rental.

According to Walsh, the ordinance hashed out by his administration and the City Council takes a three-tiered approach to classifying short-term rental units. These include Limited Share Units that consists of a private bedroom or shared space in the owner-operator’s primary residence, in which the operator is present during the rental. The fee associated with this classification will be $25 per year.

Home Share Unit are defined as whole units available for a short-term rental at the primary residence of the owner-operator. The fee associated with this classification will be $200 per year.

Owner-Adjacent Unit consists of an owner-occupied two- or three-family building, in which the owner lists a single secondary unit as a short-term rental. The fee associated with this classification will be $200 per year.

The regulations also provide protections for the occupants of the short-term rental unit by prohibiting any property with outstanding housing, sanitary, building, fire or zoning-code violations from being listed. In addition, the operator is required to provide notice to abutters of a short term rental unit within 30 days of approved registration.

Non-owner occupants are not permitted to operate short term rentals in their leased units.

The city will levy penalties to any person who offers an ineligible unit as a short-term rental, fails to register, or fails to comply with a notice of violation.

Eastie’s City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who voted in favor of regulating short term rentals, applauded Mayor Walsh for signing the ordinance.

“Thank you to Mayor Walsh and my colleagues for diligent work on the short-term rental ordinance. This legislation balances the rights of homeowners to earn supplemental income with protections for housing stock under pressure from the investor-owned segment of the short-term rental industry,” said Edwards. “By preventing loss of traditional rental units to short-term rentals, the ordinance will supplement citywide efforts to preserve housing units and increase housing stock through new construction.”

Edwards added that the ordinance also enables a fair playing field for a diverse hospitality industry.

“Visitors to Boston will retain numerous options, including short-term rentals, traditional hotels, lodging houses, bed and breakfasts, executive suites and corporate furnished housing,” she said.

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