Monday evening, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously passed amendments to the 2018 Short Term Rental (STR) Ordinance that close loopholes to illegally rent properties. Specifically, the amendments will:

  • Expand the definition of prohibitions on advertisements to include individuals who falsely advertise a vacation rental within the City, but where the actual unit is located outside the City
  • Impose liability to hosting platforms that complete booking transactions for vacation rentals within the City
  • Expand and clarify that enforcement options include, but are not limited to, administrative penalties, and civil and criminal prosecution
  • Establish that persons who violate the Section are responsible for reimbursing the City and any law enforcement agencies for investigation costs and requiring retro payment on all Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)
  • Create a private right of action for individuals to bring suit against hosts in violation of the ordinance
  • Authorize administrative subpoenas in order to ensure compliance

The amendments directly address a rising safety concern about geographical bait-and-switch tactics, where hosts at properties in the City of Los Angeles instead use addresses in cities such as West Hollywood to avoid enforcement of L.A.’s Home Sharing Ordinance (HSO). In March 2023, the short-term rental watchdog group Better Neighbors L.A. (BNLA) reviewed 100 AirBnB listings in “West Hollywood” to find that 82 percent were actually located in the City of L.A.

Over the past few years, illegal STRs have become sites of life-and-death public safety issues, including the murder of three people outside of a “party house” in Benedict Canyon this past January, and the 2022 shootings in Studio City and Encino.

West Hollywood’s amendment follows Santa Monica’s 2015 regulations that provide a private right of action. The City of L.A. is now considering a motion with similar amendments that strengthen enforcement and allows Angelenos a private right of action.

“We applaud this move by the City of West Hollywood, and hope Los Angeles will soon follow suit, to preserve housing and protect city residents,” said Executive Director of BNLA, Randy Renick. “Several years into enforcement of the Home Sharing Ordinance, the City of L.A. is still struggling to properly enforce it. The City of Santa Monica’s enforcement of their short-term rental ordinance has been more successful than in L.A., partially because their ordinance allows for a private right of action.”

BNLA’s 2022 Home-Sharing Ordinance Enforcement Report and Recommendations found that in 2022 alone there were 4,000 illegal STR listings on just AirBnB and only 27 issued citations by the City of L.A. With these findings, the City of L.A.’s motion calls for an updated reporting system that would require all STR platforms to share data that would help the City enforce violations of illegal STRs. This action would close loopholes that STR hosts have exploited.

Violations of STR ordinances contribute to the decline of affordable housing in a region where it’s increasingly harder to find places to live. In the City of L.A., BNLA found that commercial STRs have removed 2,500 homes from the long-term rental market and are responsible for more than 5,000 additional people experiencing homelessness.

“Short-term rental regulations are important to protect long-term housing for residents,” said Nancy Hanna, a partner at Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai, LLP. “Especially in areas where the housing crisis is most acute, enforcing those regulations is a critical and necessary part of preserving housing.”

At last night’s meeting, West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne requested that Code Enforcement identify what additional resources are needed to ensure violations are being handled properly. Mayor Pro Tem John Erickson requested Code Enforcement provide quarterly updates on STR enforcement, in order to increase transparency and accountability.

The amendments to West Hollywood’s short-term rental ordinance will hopefully allow the City to better enforce its ordinance and in effect curb illegal short-term rentals,” said BNLA Spokesperson, Tori Funk. “Key to their success will be code enforcement fully taking advantage of these regulations, and listening to residents who report illegal STRs.”

The City of Los Angeles is expected to consider its STR motion after the council returns from July recess.

Photo image by igoriss

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