Airbnb Operators Urge Pittsburgh City Council to Change Short-Term Rental Laws

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Airbnb owners on Thursday urged members of the Pittsburgh City Council to change proposed legislation that would regulate Airbnbs and other short-term rental properties.

The legislation was introduced after two teenagers were killed and eight others injured in a shooting at an Airbnb rental property on the north side of the city early on Easter Sunday, although council members said that the idea of ​​regulating Airbnbs had been in the works for years.

Councilman Bruce Kraus said the measure was not intended to specifically target Airbnb, nor to suggest that short-term rentals were bad. The idea, he said, is to ensure that short-term rental accommodation is safe and regulated.

“We know that the vast majority of hosts act in good faith to be valued members of our community,” said Chad Wise of Lawrenceville, who is part of the Steel City Short-Term Rental Alliance.

He said the group “welcomes effective legislation,” but asked to be involved in the process of fine-tuning the legislation to ensure it doesn’t harm responsible Airbnb operators.

The legislation would require anyone operating an Airbnb or other short-term rental property to obtain a license from the city’s Department of Permits, Licensing and Inspections. They should provide contact information where managers could contact them if any issues arise at their property, as well as additional information such as the maximum number of guests allowed for each rental.

The measure would also require owners of short-term rentals to keep a list of guests entering properties, along with their contact details.

The measure would limit the number of people who can stay in a short-term rental and require guests not to stay in the unit for more than 15 consecutive days.

The maximum stay requirement raised several concerns from Airbnb operators who spoke at the public hearing. Some participants in Thursday’s hearing pointed out that some Airbnb customers need to stay in town longer for medical care, visit family from long distances, or seek short-term housing while closing deals. real estate to buy a permanent home.

Becky Mingo, who operates an Airbnb with her husband, said the city shouldn’t aim to ‘limit our tourist traffic’ with limits on how many people can stay and how long they can stay in a short-term rental. term. She suggested extending the maximum stay to six months.

“I really like the idea of ​​regulating a minimum stay as opposed to a maximum stay,” Kraus said after public testimony.

“These people are looking for flexible travel options,” said local Airbnb operator Corey Deithorn. “They spend money on our local businesses here.”

Deithorn said he has concerns with outside companies that run Airbnbs in Pittsburgh. The best model, he said, involves owners like him who are local and committed to the units they rent.

“We are actively improving these properties,” he said, adding that he supports “responsible regulations that enable responsible housing.”

Others who spoke on Thursday also defended Airbnbs operated by LLCs, explaining that LLCs don’t always mean out-of-state entities. Sometimes locals operate short-term rentals as an LLC for liability protection or for financial reasons.

Oakland’s Michael Subkoviak said he operates Airbnbs as part of an LLC because it “gives you protection.”

“I’m part of the community,” he said. “I live five blocks away. I understand the importance of being a good neighbour.

Subkoviak said he supports the legislation, but would also like to see insurance requirements in short-term rental units. He called for a public safety liaison who could facilitate better communication between Airbnb owners and public safety officials, who he said sometimes don’t know how to handle issues that arise. occur on Airbnb sites.

Millie Sass of Oakland said she supports the idea of ​​regulating Airbnbs, but questioned how effective the measure would be and whether it would protect residents who live near short-term rentals.

“The legislation needs a lot of scrutiny,” she said.

She argued that it is “unfair” to permanent residents that short-term tenants have access to residential parking permits in areas where parking spaces are often scarce.

Several people encouraged council members to consider charging a hotel tax on short-term rental units, as they operate in the same way.

“If you have hundreds of Airbnbs that don’t pay the hotel-motel tax, that’s a lot of money,” said Robert Cranmer, who operates a bed and breakfast in nearby Brentwood that is subject to the tax.

Several Airbnb owners have pushed back against the negative associations that have been made with Airbnb in the wake of the recent shooting.

“We want to come out of the shadows and into the light and be properly regulated,” said Julie Ransom, who has been an Airbnb host since 2008. “Millions of Airbnb stays happen every day without incident.”

Cassandra Brandy, also an Airbnb host, said it was a few “bad apples” that made people assume Airbnbs was problematic and needed new rules.

“None of the proposed requirements would have prevented the tragic shooting,” she said. “We don’t need to make more regulations. We have to enforce the laws and violations we already have.

Councilor Bobby Wilson, a co-sponsor of the measure and a council member who represents the area where the Airbnb shooting occurred, said he would like to see the measure amended to address concerns heard during the public audience. He did not provide details.

Julia Felton is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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