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“Why I Oppose the Anti-Airbnb Bill” by Marc Gersen

by Prince Of Petworth April 25, 2017 at 11:30 am 178 Comments

motel
Photo by PoPville flickr user Miki J.

Marc lives in NoMa. PoP-Ed. posts may be written about anything related to the District and submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line and the neighborhood in which you reside.

The following is written testimony that has also been submitted to the Council of DC.

“Testimony Opposing the Anti-Airbnb Bill, 22-92. by Marc Gersen

I live and vote in Ward 6 and I host on Airbnb. I urge you to vote “no” on this bill. First, I will explain how the 15-day limit harms ordinary D.C. residents like me. Second, I suggest a more targeted approach to regulating short-term rentals. Don’t regulate natural persons sharing their own home. Instead, focus on large apartment rental buildings, which advertise entire units online. These are the real de facto hotels.

I. The 15-day limit

A. The overbroad reach of the 15-day limit

I list my own bed on Airbnb whenever I travel. Under the bill, this would become unlawful because I travel more than 15 days per year.

I am a full-time student. Homesharing income helps me when I leave home for spring break for a week, winter break for two weeks, and even a weekend trip to escape the Inauguration madness.
The 15-day rule is unnecessary because the bill already contains another rule to limit homesharing to a dwelling’s permanent occupant. I’m a permanent occupant. Last November, I voted at the J.O. Wilson Elementary School across the street. I’m not an absentee, de facto hotel. I live here too. That should be enough.

This bill burdens a huge swath of D.C. residents. Frequent travel is common in Washington, D.C. Here, people travel a lot, and this bill burdens everyone who travels more than 15 days or who might ever think of listing their home on Airbnb. For example, federal workers get five weeks of paid vacation per year. One friend, an IT consultant, travels for work every Monday through Thursday. His only home is his Logan Circle condo, but he is away over 156 nights per year.

B. The regulation’s wasteful effect

Forcing me to forgo Airbnb income and to keep my bed empty after the 15th day I am away is pure waste. I will lose, the would-be visitor will lose, and our city will lose when both the visitor and I have less with which to enjoy our city.

The 15-day limit will not protect the supply of housing to other D.C. residents. When I travel, my room is empty space a visitor can use, but it’s not space available to be someone else’s home. It’s already my home. I’m coming back.

C. The 15-day limit harms the least privileged Airbnb hosts

On its face, the 15-day rule does not limit not de facto hotels, but rather, regulates ordinary people – permanent occupants of their own permanent residence. I have heard people argue that allowing unsupervised strangers into one’s own home for more than 15 days is bizarre and the rule is needed to prevent likely schemes to evade the rules. How naïve and privileged!
In my home, I have few valuables and few breakables. Having people over when I am away causes me little worry. But the extra income does helps.

Some people have, unashamedly, told me they have no sympathy for people using their home to make money. I am proud to be a D.C. resident. In the future, I hope to be able to afford to dismiss homesharing as bizarre or more hassle than it’s worth. For now, the extra income helps to prevent me from being displaced into Virginia.

The bill thus jeopardizes my ability to continue living in a neighborhood which is expensive and increasingly preferred by D.C.’s most privileged residents. This “Affordable Housing Protection Act” does the opposite. My neighborhood will not be any more affordable, but my home may be unaffordable to me.

The bill does not attempt to limit regulation to protecting affordable housing. It does not attempt to consider the many, varied circumstances throughout our city. The bill restricts what all D.C. residents can do in their permanent homes in all neighborhoods and at all price points. This is not a well-designed solution to a problem. It is like a regulatory shotgun blast.

D. Implementing the 15-day limit will be overly complicated and problematic

Suppose I’ve used up my 15 days, and I accept a guest reservation fully expecting to be home. But then a surprise occurs. Hopefully, it would be attending something like a wedding, not funeral. But either way, will I have to cancel on my guest? Would I have to self-report to an agency and seek approval? Will the rules distinguish between a funeral for close family, distant family, and friends? Will I need to hire a lawyer? What an embarrassment for our city!

II. A more effective solution is to instead look at real estate management companies and large rental buildings


This bill is problematic because it attempts too much, affects too many people, and applies a single rule to too many people’s different circumstances. The Council should put aside regulating Airbnb hosts who are natural persons and D.C. residents. Instead, look at large real estate management companies’ practice of keeping entire units off the rental market.

Consider 425 Mass, a luxury Chinatown rental building, which also lists itself as a hotel on Booking.com. I have attached the online hotel ads. The corporate owners of 425 Mass provide units to a professional hotel management company, yet prohibit the tenants who actually live there from homesharing. This is not unusual.

The Office of Tenant Advocate should look at whether this practice is fair to the other renters who live in the building. This seems unfair for tenants who moved in to a residential building, only to find that it later became a de facto hotel.
III. Conclusion

My home is not a de facto hotel. It is far more personal. I enjoy sharing coffee with my guests and talking about our city. Times are changing, and more people prefer home sharing. Washington, D.C.’s reputation succeeds in attracting young people, entrepreneurs, and tech startups. Attacking D.C. residents like me who embrace homesharing as “illegal hotel operators” is unfair, does nothing to protect affordable housing, and will harm our city’s reputation.

figure 1

figure 2

  • Ehhhh, I still fully support the bill because I had an illegal full-time AirBnb unit next to me in my building. The management could do very little legally, even though it was against the leasing terms, because it would have been very hard to evict someone who was paying rent on-time. The AirBnB host lied and told the building management that she would be living there full-time, but in reality, she was just a professional host who takes advantage of large rental buildings across the city. She rented out the unit using the site’s instant-booking feature, which meant she did not have to personally approve who was renting the unit for that night. In many cases, it was rented to local college kids who were looking for an apartment to throw a party. The host had been reached out to many times, but she didn’t care, because she was making money hand over fist, knowing the building could do very little to stop her.

    Another issue are these part-time AirBnB hosts that say they are “relying” on AirBnB income to survive. Who on earth would think it’s a good idea to support individuals like this that are clearly in over their heads, and using AirBnB as an excuse to live above their means. If you need to illegally rent out your unit to make ends meet, you need to re-evaluate your living situation.

    Sorry OP, but it sounds like you just want to make some extra cash while you’re on spring break. I do not think this bill will hurt the DC economy, because guests will resort to the options that existed prior to these illegal hotels.

    • Emily

      If the issue is that it’s difficult to evict people who break their leases, going after AirBnb renting seems like a poor solution to that. If the actual resident were having loud parties, that wouldn’t be any better for you.

      • Anon

        A continuous stream of renters uses a property differently than even the most partying resident. No resident has that number of parties. I have personally experienced this. Imagine sharing a party wall and having your bedroom over look the back yard of a row house where a rager is thrown every single weekend.

        • BT

          Yes, eviction should be possible in cases where there are continuous noise complaints.

    • lizcolleena

      A) Isn’t your first example an argument to change eviction laws, not change short term rental laws?
      B) You don’t have much sympathy for the poor or disadvantaged. This is an incredibly expensive city. Why shouldn’t a low-income resident make ends meet through creative means like this? Because you had one bad experience once?
      C) Why do you say the OP was ILLEGALLY renting out their unit? It could have been entirely legal, but maybe would not be in the future if legislation passes. That doesn’t mean they’re breaking the law now.
      D) Airbnb serves as a more affordable option for tourists than hotels in most cases. I stay in them when I can’t find a hotel price within my budget, as I would wager a significant portion of consumers do. If I didn’t have a more affordable option, I wouldn’t take the trip. That would mean less money spent in any given local economy. So yes, it will definitely hurt economically. How much we don’t know right now, but there will be less spending.
      E) All that being said, I do support the restriction of short term rentals to preserve availability of affordable rental units. I just don’t think a 15-day cap is the way to go.

      • welp

        Sympathy for the poor and disadvantaged? LMAO

        You have some kind of nerve.

        The only people airbnb regulation hurts are tech-gen slumlords keeping permanent rental space away from the poor and disadvantaged in this city.

        • lizcolleena

          There’s not one universal standard for “regulation” as you seem to imply here. I am for the restriction of short term rentals to preserve affordable longer-term rentals, but that doesn’t necessitate a cap and that’s not what this legislation does.

        • Neighborly

          You clearly didn’t read the original post. If a homeowner permanently occupies his home, and temporarily rents it out while he is traveling for work to help make ends meet, how is that taking rental space away from the poor and disadvantaged? The OP/ homeowner has no intention of ever making his home available on the permanent rental market.

          • Anon

            That this author is in this situation doesn’t mean most people affected by this proposal are.

    • BT

      Yeah, the simple solution to this is to make eviction (for cause – not lease-breaking by the landlord!) – easier. DC always picks the most roundabout regulatory, supported by lobbyists for some moneyed interest (in this case the hotel industry) way to address any problem though (and in doing so creates 3 times as many new problems).

      • houseintherear

        I actually think this is very true. I rent a spare bedroom on airbnb sometimes, which I realize will not be outlawed if this new legislation passes. But I used to rent the room out on a yearly lease and stopped doing that when I had a rough roommate and it was tough to evict them.

      • textdoc

        Agreed with BT on this count. D.C. has made it onerous/risky enough for landlords to offer properties for regular long-term rentals that many landlords perceive AirBnB as a preferable option.

    • PettyShabazz

      By renting out on AirBnB, you are literally increasing your means and as such you would not be living beyond them. Don’t be mad at other people for diversifying their income streams as recommended by the likes of Warren Buffett. I have no issue with cracking down on people/hosts/landlors that remove full-time rentals from the market, but getting snippy about concepts you don’t understand seems to undermine what is a legit concern for the OP, that the bill hurts both individuals and faceless corps all lumped into one.

      • HaileUnlikely

        This is a fair point, with the exception that if one is “diversifying their income streams” by using their apartment or condo to generate income in a way that is prohibited by one’s lease, condo rules, or law, I think it is then completely fair to label it “living beyond ones means.”

      • lizcolleena

        This is an excellent point.
        .
        Not trying to throw stones, but I have to wonder about the demographics of those involved. Millenials get a lot of credit for their side hustles, which may or may not be true, but if those hustles are being regulated away (uber, airbnb, etc.) then it’s going to be harder for them to make ends meet.

        • My immigrant grandparents did all kinds of “side hustles” – mostly taking in boarders and raising chickens – to boost their income while working in a factory. It used to be considered a good, sensible and virtuous thing. Also, pretty normal.

        • Bryan

          Uber should be regulated. Their drivers are treated like garbage and are paid like so. I know only one millenial who drives uber on the side and he is getting out of it.

      • HaileUnlikely

        To be clear, I oppose this bill, mainly because it is a poorly thought out, overly blunt instrument intended to address a problem that the DC Council demonstrably does not understand. However, I would be supportive of some regs to address the “hotel” issue, and I would be happy to see DCRA and/or AB&B itself do something to prevent people from putting apartments and condos on the market in violation of leases/condo docs/etc that govern individual units or buildings.

  • anonymous

    I’m confused. The OP can chastise that luxury apartment building in Chinatown for running a de facto hotel, but then say he does not do the same? Indeed, he somehow manages to have coffee with his guests while “[listing his] own bed” on the site? What?
    .
    Speaking as the neighbor of a former AirBnB’r, it is not a victimless situation. Having a constant stream of strangers living next to you is disruptive, stressful, and potentially dangerous. In my case, we do not have a concierge or on-site management, which makes this kind of thing scary (in addition to being totally illegal for a rent controlled building).
    .
    Final note: If you can’t afford to live where you live, it’s time to move. This isn’t a novel concept.

    • anondc

      “If you can’t afford to live where you live, it’s time to move.” Spoken like someone from a position of privilege. Many people cannot afford to live in D.C. and the city and its taxpayers do a lot to make sure they can live here anyway.

      • anonymous

        Not really. It’s spoken from someone who deals with reality. Hey, I’d love to have a better apartment with granite or quartz countertops, but it’s not in the budget. I live where I can afford.
        .

        And speaking of housing affordability, there are housing affordability advocates who argue that AirBnB and its equivalents are actually worsening affordability in cities! It may benefit individuals like Mr. Gersen directly, but there is an argument it is driving up prices, since people will increasingly adopt these bizarre arrangements in order to cover the increasing rental/homeownership prices. In a rent-controlled building, it is illegal, but there are obvious reasons why landlords and tenants alike would participate in these arrangements: $$$.

        • anondc

          I completely agree with you and think it is absurd for people to live in places they cannot afford. Along the same lines, it seems crazy to me how the city uses resources to house people in places they cannot afford. The flip side of that, however, is that it seems pretty rich for folks who support the city’s policies in that regard to jump down the OP’s neck for living in a place he or she may not be able to afford without making “bizarre” arrangements.

        • The average price of a one-bedroom apt. in DC was already too high to be considered “affordable” way before ST rentals became so popular. A full time rental for a basement apt. in any desirable neighborhood is already $2000.00 a month. Preventing the landlord from getting an extra $5-800.00 per month as a ST rental doesn’t magically make the regular rental price drop, it simply means less tax revenue coming to the city.

          • Lauren

            Seriously? I paid $1500 a month for a one-bedroom with garage parking in Woodley Park. No, I did not have granite counter tops, a gym, a pool or central air. But I did live in a wonderful neighborhood in an affordable apartment.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I agree in spirit but not so much in this specific application. This guy is a self-described full-time student living a mile from the Capitol in a trendy high-rent neighborhood. When I was a full-time student in DC I lived in a group house in Brightwood, 1.6 miles from the nearest metro station, and almost always commuted to downtown and back on foot to save money. I’m “privileged” because I think an adult who is voluntarily not participating in the labor force and wants DC regulators to be moved by the plight that he would face without AirBnB helping him bankroll his apartment in a couple blocks off of H Street is living above his means and should consider moving? Ok then…

        • textdoc

          +1 to HaileUnlikely.

        • anoNE

          +1,000

        • dcd

          +1. And that’s not even discussing the irony of a white UMC drug dealer who got busted, was permitted to serve his sentence in a Florida prison camp so he could be close to his family, and was apparently out in just a couple of years (though I’m not sure about that) lecturing others about their privilege when many young black men convicted of drug dealing receive far more serious sentences.

          • textdoc

            This crossed my mind too. I also thought that PoPville readers would be waaaaay less sympathetic to someone from the latter group.

          • PoPville commenters and especially readers are not a monolithic group. Some posts particular people have very strong emotions – that is never representative of the greater group. There are almost always a diversity of opinions even if there can be a very strong vocal minority.

          • textdoc

            I admit that I also had a naughty moment wondering if this enterprising soul was by any chance living in a halfway house and AirBnBing his spot there.

  • Anonymouse

    As a person that rents out their home in D.C. and follows all the rules and regulations required by the city, I am all for the 15 day rule. Without it, you have people taking what would otherwise be a rental off the rental market to make more money using Airbnb. Imagine if everyone that owned a home in D.C. did that just thing. Rents would skyrocket to levels unsustainable for most residents. And guess what it would do to the rent you get from Airbnb? It would drop to an all time low. So do you really want no regulation?

    Also why should I have to abide by all these strict housing regulations while you get to just ignore them? This bill keeps landlords (even temporary ones) honest.

    And to be fair, if you can’t really afford your mortgage without renting out your home temporarily, maybe you are really living above your means and you should either convert it to a full time rental or just sell it. That’s what responsible grownups do. They live within their means and if their means change, they adapt and move on.

  • So, Just Sayin’

    Thanks for this. I have a unit in my house with nightmare tenants, who fortunately left on their own because it’s just impossible to evict tenants under the landlord-tenant law. AirBnB and VRBO are a godsend to middle-income homeowners like me, so that we can cover our mortgages and stay in this incredibly expensive city.
    .
    Meanwhile, restricting ABB would have an impact on all the people who get housecleaning gigs because of AirBnB.

    • Chris

      It sucks to have problem tenants. But you’re admitting here that the advantage of airbnb to you is that you can still make rental money while flouting landlord-tenant law. You want airbnb to go unregulated for the convenience of lawbreakers like yourself. Classy.

      • Pointing out the difficulties of eviction is not the same thing as “flouting landlord-tenant law.”

      • BT

        Class is what I think of when a destructive tenant who routinely dumps trash in neighbors’ yards and hasn’t paid rent in six months still can’t be evicted despite their landlord following every rule because DC has the strongest tenant protection laws in the entire country.

      • Anonymous

        I thought the whole point was to make ABB units subject to some restrictions because they are not subject to current landlord-tenant law. If the laws don’t currently apply, there is nothing to flout.

    • Anonymous

      “Meanwhile, restricting ABB would have an impact on all the people who get housecleaning gigs because of AirBnB.”
      —-
      That argument is no more compelling than the union folks saying that ABB eliminates hotel jobs with benefits. And I am sure a fair number of ABB people do their own cleaning.

      • I currently do my own cleaning, because, ironically, my great cleaning person, a retired woman who did cleaning to supplement her small pension, lost her basement apt. in Petworth when the house was sold and could not find any affordable place to live in DC. (And if anyone is looking for a nice little side-gig – I pay $40.00 an hour.)

  • northeazy

    This debate reminds me of the Uber debate we had a few years ago. City Paper cleverly came up with the term “Ubertarian” for those who opposed regulating Uber, but otherwise would normally support legislation that regulated business, protected workers rights, and propped up anachronistic unions. while Ubertarians profess progressive ideals, when it comes to messing with their actual day-to-day lifestyle, principles are out the window. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/housing-complex/blog/13123853/introducing-the-ubertarian

    The AirBnB debate is also very similar. Ultimately, I think some regulations will go through, let’s just hope they are in line with what this Pop-Ed author states–although I worry about the influence union money has on McDuffy and others who support getting AirBnB out of DC. Also, AirBnB probably doesn’t have David Plouffe running their campaign strategy as Uber did at the time.

  • BT

    I also oppose it. I live in a 2 unit house (I have a legal english basement), but would never rent it out to a permanent tenant because of DC’s heavily biased-toward-the-tenant landlord tenant laws (taking 8 months or more to kick someone out for non-payment of rent or even destruction of property, letting tenants remain in a property permanently past the expiration of the lease, first-right-of-refusal whis mostly used to extort buyers and sellers, tenant-biased courts, etc.). So either I airbnb my basement unit, or it sits empty.

    • It honestly sounds like you weren’t prepared to be a landlord or interested in the regulations that come with being a landlord.

      • BT

        Ah no, I knew all the regulations which is why I did not become a landlord…. Like I said in my comment…

        On the other hand, if DC had even remotely reasonable regulations (including strict rules about housing codes and safety generally – those are great!), then there’d be one more unit on the market…

    • So, Just Sayin’

      Exactly. If the ShareBetter astroturf campaign really had any kind of commitment to affordable housing, it would address these problems with the landlord-tenant laws. But they don’t really care about any of that — they just use the argument to clothe their otherwise-naked protectionism of the hotel industry.

      • lizcolleena

        This, exactly. And I can tell you that upscale hotels pay about $30 per room per night for all its costs. Yet they’re often charging 10x that, or more.
        .
        I’d support a law that actually tried to improve the housing affordability crisis in this city, but this one is a piece of junk from the hotel lobby.

      • comradeannony

        Are hotels a cartel? Do they all collude to keep up prices? Wouldn’t they prefer more room to expand in a city that is obviously
        .
        Personally, I would allow marriott to compete with Airbnb. They could buy a block of logan circle or capitol hill and rent out hotel rooms in a safer more regulated way. It is unclear why some think private owners in DC (i.e. rich folks) should be allowed to rent out hotel rooms and not have to compete with actual hoteliers.
        .
        Rental buildings and condominiums should be able to keep out these hotel units using contract law.

  • navyard

    meh, the OP lost me when he decided it would be more important to contact a lawyer to figure out potential legal ramifications on his way to a family funeral. Poor example OP, totally threw me off on a tangent.
    .
    I’m not a fan of my neighbors renting out their property to strangers, so no sympathy here. And because I’m of a more frugal nature, I agree with nyterp…live beneath your means.
    .
    And I had to chuckle at the OP calling someone else out on privilege, and then writing “The bill thus jeopardizes my ability to continue living in a neighborhood which is expensive and increasingly preferred by D.C.’s most privileged residents”.

    • Commentator

      Yeah, did not catch the first point while buzzing through but this does not read well to me. There are several areas where it comes across as tone-deaf, condescending, and overall I just didn’t find it to present a compelling argument. I’m not saying there aren’t arguments out there to be made, but “I want to live in a coveted area that I can’t afford and travel a lot” is not really the winner to me.

      • lizcolleena

        I see your point that perhaps this wasn’t well-stated, but I do think the fact that he’s a student is an important factor. Maybe he’s just trying to live near his school, which would save time and commuting money for him, and prevent one fewer car on the road. It’s not like there are a plethora of affordable options near any university in this city, some of which are not located very near metro (AU, Georgetown, even Howard’s not super convenient), so what else is he supposed to do?

        • Mamasan

          Except that below he talks about his 1-week spring break, 2-week winter break, and inauguration getaway. I work full-time and can’t afford that many vacations so I’m not sure that this isn’t a privileged student throwing around the word “privilege” because it’s trendy, rather than someone who really can’t navigate the city without the additional income. And also, if this person is a tenant of a landlord who does have the appropriate insurance and licensing, etc., will their landlord, who’s just making the regular amount as advertised, be held liable if an AirBNB guest does damage? The whole thing is unclear. I’m not pro-landlord at all, but this seems like a very dicey situation (in general, not the OP’s specifically) without some oversight.

    • dcd

      If this is the Marc Gersen who made national news about 5 years ago (and I’d love to know if it is), his concern for scrupulous compliance with the law is recently acquired. And his neighbors have bigger concerns than whether he is an Airbnb host.

      • textdoc
        • cam

          I think chances are good it’s one and the same. I’d have guessed that a law student wrote that. And he’s entrepreneurial.

        • Anonymous

          It is 100% the same guy. I came here to post as much–I went to school with him and this is exactly how he talks.

          • dcd

            There are some (unintentionally) very funny parts of the letter to the council, if you read it knowing the history:
            .
            “In my home, I have few valuables and few breakables. Having people over when I am away causes me little worry. But the extra income does helps.”
            .
            “Suppose I’ve used up my 15 days, and I accept a guest reservation fully expecting to be home. But then a surprise occurs. Hopefully, it would be attending something like a wedding, not funeral. But either way, will I have to cancel on my guest?”
            .
            “I enjoy sharing coffee with my guests . . . Washington, D.C.’s reputation succeeds in attracting young people, entrepreneurs, and tech startups.”
            .
            Also, I tend to tune out screeds that go on and on about how privileged others are. It may very well be true, but it’s such a lazy, trite argument.

        • anonymously

          Hahaha, I know people who live in this house and have hung out there several times. It’s DEFINITELY this guy.

          • anon

            So what’s it like hanging out there?

      • Cleveland Park runner

        People can change, dcd. That story is more than four years old. I’m not sure why you think that means it’s okay to attack his character today.

        • dcd

          Referencing a widely publicized felony conviction is “attacking someone’s character?” He’s a former drug dealer. That’s not a judgment, it’s a description of his legal status.

          • anon

            Definitely a character attack that would be inadmissible on other more robe-heavy blogs.

          • Cleveland Park runner

            Saying that “his neighbors have bigger concerns than whether he is an Airbnb host” is a character attack and ad hominem.

          • anon

            Don’t pick on dcd. They’re at a bar with their kid.

  • Adam

    On what planet do federal workers get 5 weeks of paid vacation a year?

    • NH Ave Hiker

      roughly 26 pay periods – 6 hours of annual leave per pay period = roughly 20 days of annual leave. Factor that in with sick leave that’s roughly 5 weeks I guess.

      • BT

        Also federal holidays.

      • Kent

        If you’ve been around long enough it goes up to 8 hours of leave per pay period. You also get 4 hours of sick leave per pay period.

        • John B.

          Which translates to 5 weeks per year, and a lot of federal employees do indeed stay at their jobs long enough to earn that much vacation time. (That’s what I’m currently getting myself, but I’ve also been at my job for 26 years so it’s kind of a be-careful-what-you-wish-for situation.)

      • Anonymous

        To be clear, you start out with 4 hours of annual leave per pay period. That lasts for three years. Then you move up to 6 hours of annual leave per pay period, which lasts until you have put in fifteen years of service. Then you are entitled to 8 hours of annual leave per pay period.

    • textdoc

      That jumped out at me too. I think the OP must be counting federal holidays in addition to annual leave, or maybe the only federal employees he knows are ones who’ve reached the 15-year mark and thus earn 26 days of annual leave a year.
      .
      Federal employees earn 13 days of annual leave a year up until the three-year mark. Between year 3 and year 15, they earn 19 days of annual leave a year.

      • msus

        It’s 20 days. Feds in the 6 hour bracket get 10 hours of AL in the final pp of the year.

    • ET

      If you work for the feds for 15 years you get 4 weeks add that to the federal holidays and that about 5 weeks. Saying that you have to work for the feds for 15 years which is no small thing for those under the age 50 and it also likely means a person at a different career point than this guy.

  • textdoc

    Can someone post a TLDR summary?

    • Anon Spock

      He can’t afford his apt without airbnb, so he doesn’t support the 15 day limit.

  • EB

    The OP doesn’t say anywhere that he actually owns the place he is renting out. It kind of sounds like a sublet situation, honestly. If so, does the landlord know he is doing this?

    • Anon Spock

      Doubt it!

    • cam

      I noticed that, too. He conveniently left out the details of his actual living situation. I’m not sure about the proposal, but I’ve had problems with AirBnB folks in my condo building (and have complained many times to the Board about it). I don’t want to live in a hotel. The fines imposed by my building for violating the rules are not enough of an incentive, it seems, to prevent numerous owners from engaging in this scheme.

      • So you need to have your Board of Directors impost higher fines and enforce them. Or join the board yourself. The board can also request the owner provide a copy of their homeowner’s insurance policy to prove it covers ST rentals. (Most do not.)

        • Mamasan

          Just as an FYI, the same problem exists in my condo building, where I am a regulated long-term tenant with very specific restrictions about what I can and cannot do and a rider on my lease that ensures I have to obey all condo by-laws and other regulations. The AirBNB hosts simply tell their guests to advise anyone who asks that they are visiting family / friends. The guests are willing to do so to rent the place(s), so it’s incredibly difficult to prove that someone is breaking the rules and fine them accordingly. It has created a huge security problem with guests losing security fobs, causing damage to the garage, etc.

  • So, Just Sayin’

    There’s background that most folks here don’t know about this campaign.
    .
    The genesis of this campaign was an effort in Los Angeles. A union-backed group called the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy decided to look into AirBnB because they heard there was an effect on the hotel industry, and that was a concern because LAANE and the hotel union had invested a lot of time in various living wage laws to make hotel jobs good jobs. They did a one-day scrap of AirBnB data and produced a report, in which they documented that some of the hosts were listing entire multi-unit buildings and basically running illegal hotels. That was the launch of their campaign.
    .
    What you see in other cities, including DC, is a multi-city rollout of the LA strategy. UNITE-HERE, the hotel workers union, is bankrolling this, funding the Working Families Party and Jobs With Justice to be the community face. This isn’t rolling out because DC residents are revolting in response to AirBnBs in their neighborhoods — this is a carpetbagging affair, with UNITE-HERE trying to prop up the hotel industry against competition.
    .
    Neither the union locals in DC nor the advocacy groups here are very skilled, so they definitely didn’t come up with this on their own. And it’s definitely not the product of organic concern from DC residents.

    • This exactly.

    • pro-union-anon

      That’s just unfair and untrue. While union locals may not have come up with this “on their own”, they’re working hard to make sure jobs are protected and regulated in hotels through union contracts. There are no “employees” in AirBnb rentals – no valets, no doormen, no housekeepers, no bartenders, etc. All of these are entry-level jobs that employ hundreds of DC locals. They are eliminated with AirBnb.

      Hotel unions and their organizers fight hard against hotel management to get better salaries and benefits for the employees at the very bottom of the totem pole. To say they’re solely involved in this campaign to “prop up the hotel industry” is a very narrow view – sure AirBnb is a competitor, but it also does exactly the opposite of what the union works for – protected rights for workers who are largely taken advantage of.

      • So, Just Sayin’

        I totally and completely stand by the labor movement fighting for its members. But that’s not what’s happening here.
        .
        AirBnB is just a marketplace in which homeowners (and sometimes lessees) can put a space — anything from a couch to a room to an in-law suite to a separate apartment to an actual house — up for short-term occupancy. It doesn’t eliminate jobs; in fact, it creates them, as I’m sure housekeepers get more gigs more often to come in and clean spaces before and after ABB or VRBO guests come through.
        .
        This isn’t like Uber, which claims to be a marketplace but actually sets rates and many other terms of employment, then shrugs off any actual responsibility by calling drivers independent contractors. Uber does threaten a set of jobs that the labor movement shaped in the early 20th century. AirBnB just helps people cover their rent or their mortgages.
        .
        In this case, UNITE-HERE isn’t protecting jobs — it’s trying to protect an industry, which has made itself vulnerable to competition over the years through “resort fees,” high rates, etc.

        • pro-union-anon

          If there are more Airbnbs at cheaper rates than hotels, more people will stay in them. Many hotel workers are paid in tips, by volume (how many rooms are filled for housekeepers to clean), or by being busy and thus receiving overtime pay. All of these sources of income decrease if people choose to say in Airbnbs as opposed to hotels.

          Not to mention, housekeepers that come in once or twice to clean an Airbnb do not receive the same benefits as union hotel workers. Who’s going to fight on their behalf for adequate healthcare, paid leave, or other benefits that are completely ignored for this type of “outsourced” labor?

          Of course this Airbnb bill helps protect hotels. But since hotels can be regulated (and employees protected) by union contracts I don’t think Airbnb is a good alternative for jobs.

          • dcd

            I understand their motivations, but I am unmoved by the argument. It is entirely reminiscent of the buggy whip makers’ opposition to the automobile. “The government should prohibit, or greatly restrict, this business model because if we don’t, my job may be in jeopardy” isn’t a compelling argument, and never has been.

          • ST rentals and hotels have very little overlap in customer base. Many tourists will never even consider a ST rental. They don’t trust them, or simply prefer the amenities of a hotel. Many ST rental guests would simply not visit if they had to pay 2 or 3 times more for a hotel, and cram a family of 4 into a single hotel room. Or that family might only come for a 2 night stay, where they might have stayed 4 nights in a ST rental.

            If hotel occupancy is down, I would suggest that over-supply of rooms plus the impact of discount booking sites like Expedia have had more effect than ST rentals.

            I am certainly pro-union, but your argument that hotel workers are losing out because 1. they are paid in tips 2. they are paid by volume or 3. they rely on overtime – then the problem isn’t with ST rentals, the problem is the unions need to do a much better job insuring them a living reliable wage!

          • anon

            @DCD-that is not a fair comparison. The cleaning service for airbnb owners and a large hotel are substantively the same function. The difference is you can unionize against big companies, and not against small independent operators. There is no tech replacing these workers.

          • comradeannony

            @Victoria.

            I think you are correct. These are too vastly different markets. I have never really understood why hotels would wan’t to block Airbnb. Hotel workers, I can see, but the hotels are not actually trying to protect a monopoly.

    • welp

      You sound like you own stock in Airbnb.

    • Colhi

      It’s only carpetbagging if you believe that hotel workers don’t live in DC. And they do. I also don’t understand why you feel it’s OK for Airbnb investors to fight for their livelihoods but not OK for hotel workers to do the same? Also, no offense but your attitude toward working people and unions as “not very skilled” is elitist and crap.

      • So, Just Sayin’

        “AirBnB investors”? I don’t know any AirBnB investors, and I don’t care what they want or need. I’m concerned about middle income and working class homeowners squeezed by sky-high mortgages who want the option of short-term stays in their space.
        .
        And I don’t think “working people and unions” are unskilled. I just think that most of the nonprofit advocacy groups in DC are unsophisticated, and that the locals here are nowhere near as strategic as the locals in other cities. Look at the central labor council in LA and then look at the one here and tell me you don’t think the same.

        • dcd

          I think by “Airbnb investors” Colhi means people who buy properties with the express intent of using them for short-term rentals, not people who invest in Airbnb the company. I know several people (including some posters here) who do that.

        • comradeannony

          If Airbnb wants to win over the union, then they need to require owners to use Union labor.
          .
          Also, the union is doing its job by spreading policy to other states. This is not a bad thing if you a pro-labor.

    • anon

      I was initially in favor of the hotel lobby because I thought they might put pressure on cities to deregulate restrictive zoning that allows Airbnb to thrive. If they Union is behind it because they want better pay for workers, that only gives me more reason to hate on airbnb.

    • anonymous

      Since when did union members stop being part of our community. What an entitled and ignorant series of comments.

  • EastofGeorgia

    We had an AirBnB in our lower in-law suite last year. We easily exceeded the 15 day limit with a single tenant who was here for part of an internship. We met wonderful people, shared the city that we love, and made a little (ultimately, very little) money.

    The official line on this bill is to improve affordable housing in DC. We chose to rent it full-time to a friend, but we would not have rented it out to a stranger due to DC’s extremely challenging position regarding tenants. Without our friend in the apartment, we would continue with AirBnB, paying the requisite hotel and income taxes but deciding when we wanted to rent it out. In our case (and the case of thousands across the city), it would have zero effect on affordable housing.

    The city needs to rework this bill so it focuses on owners of multiple-resident buildings who have removed their properties from the supply of rental housing in favor of running unlicensed hotels. Otherwise, this is a badly-written hack job on law-abiding residents in the city trying to make a little extra money with a legal asset. The guy renting out his apartment or spare bedroom or in-law suite isn’t the problem with affordable housing. It’s entire buildings being taken out of the market, and DC’s strong anti-landlord bias in the law.

    • lizcolleena

      Totally agree! Let’s focus on the actual problem. This whole debate is a bit of a red herring.

    • textdoc

      “The guy renting out his apartment or spare bedroom or in-law suite isn’t the problem with affordable housing.”
      .
      I agree with this part… but I don’t agree with the subsequent statement that the problem is just with entire buildings being removed from the market. It’s also a problem that so many condo units are being turned into AirBnB units rather than being either owner-occupied or rented out to full-time tenants — it can be disruptive to neighbors, and removes rental housing from the market.
      .
      I have no sympathy for hotels, but the AirBnB craze is squeezing the supply of rental housing and contributing to skyrocketing rents. This benefits the few (AirBnB hosts) at the cost of the many (everyone else).

      • EastofGeorgia

        My guess is those condo owners are in violation of their condo docs, or they are in a building that restricts the number of renters (keeps the building in compliance w FHA and FNMA lending rules, so makes it easier to sell units). That’s an issue of condo boards turning away from the problem.

      • comradeannony

        This is a condo problem. Totally private. If they want to run a de-fact hotel, then that is ok. If they want to exact massive fees on owners breaking rules and using airbnb, then they can.
        .
        Airbnb rentals definitely raise the value of a property. But the real affordability problem is the same–ZONING. In this case, there is either a shortage of hotels to accommodate short term visitors and visitors are using other housing stock to meet their needs. Very similar to the shortage of one-bedroom and studios that force young people to live in group houses. DC will never upzone. We are going to be a swampy, more expensive, lanyard wearing version of San Fran.

    • John B.

      My husband and I have been renting out our basement apartment (as a legal rental, with a C of O) for 17 years. We have had exactly one problem tenant, and she was already living there when we bought the house. The place was a dump–probably hadn’t had new carpet or paint in well over 10 years (or if it did, she completely trashed it)–and as soon as she moved out, we fixed it up and jacked up the rent. If you keep the place up to average or better-than-average standards and screen your prospective tenants carefully, you should rarely have a problem.

    • houseintherear

      Wait- but if it’s an in-law suite, I believe that means this new legislation will not apply to you. If a separate apartment, it will apply.

    • soulshadow55

      Exactly why my basement apartment is sitting empty right now. It would be nice to have some extra income from it. As a single woman my house is really my biggest asset. However, when I think about all the issues with D.C.’s tenant-friendly rental laws, for the life of me I just can’t do it. Renting out your basement apartment is not the same as a large management company renting hundreds of units. It seems unfair to lump them together with the same rental laws. When you add in the TOPA rule and other regulations it’s a wonder anyone who owns a house rents out their basement apartment.

  • I was just in the middle of writing my testimony against this bill – to deliver at the hearing tomorrow. Does the short-term rental market need some regulation? Sure. But this bill is nuts. First of all, though it claims to be an “affordable housing” bill, it would do nothing at all to increase the supply of affordable housing. The 15 day limit, as explained above, is simply absurd. But even separate apartments that could be rented full-time are already not affordable. Restricting their use as ST rentals simply reduces the potential tax revenue that the city could otherwise dedicate to building more affordable housing.

    DC already has plenty of ways to regulate the tiny fraction of ST rentals that are abusing the system. Condo owners have by-laws and boards of directors to regulate their own buildings. Likewise, apartment buildings have lease restrictions. And of course, market forces are starting to work themselves out. Most home-owner policies do not cover ST rentals, so when owners begin to realize this, there will be natural attrition, as they don’t want to risk losing their home in a lawsuit.

    I’ve rented out an apt. in my home in Columbia Heights for 12 years. I have brought in around $288,000.00 to my local restaurants from this, as well as $28,000 in dining tax to DC, and approximately $36,000.00 in income tax.

    Understand that this bill is being promoted primarily by Hotel lobbies, not affordable housing groups. But most ST rentals do not really compete with DC hotels. (There are some now like 425 Mass. that do, but those can be regulated without destroying the rights of individual property owners.) Most tourists using ST rentals are budget travelers who would otherwise stay in cheaper hotels in Arlington.

    On TripAdvisor DC forum from Jan. 1, 2016 to March 2017, there were 790 inquiries about budget accommodations in DC. For all 790, hotels in Arlington (Crystal City & Rosslyn) were suggested.

  • TriniSoFlo

    I don’t support this bill but for different reasons. AirBnB is already collecting an occupancy tax on my behalf so DC is getting its cut. This bill makes me jump through more hoops and get more entangled in DC bureaucracy nonsense. The 15 day limit is a killer. I have a unit on the property that I own and live in. I can afford to live in my place without AirBnB so that’s not the issue. If this bill passes, the extra unit will either sit empty or get converted to a long term rental. Since I’ve been airbnb’ing my extra space, i’ve hosted people from all over the country who have visited DC(often for the first time), enjoyed their time in the city and spent their money in support of local establishments. Really disappointed in McDuffie and this legislation and I plan on voting against him in the next election, as he is my councilmember.

    • lizcolleena

      Call his office and tell him!

    • anon

      “AirBnB is already collecting an occupancy tax on my behalf so DC is getting its cut.”

      This is not the point of the bill.

      “If this bill passes, the extra unit will either sit empty or get converted to a long term rental.”

      This latter scenario is entirely the point.

      • TriniSoFlo

        the stated point of this bill is to ‘preserve affordable housing’. Me converting my airbnb to a long term rental does nothing to help achieve this goal.

        • anon

          You’re familiar with the principles of supply and demand, right?

          • You do realize that for – “the principles of supply and demand” to reduce rental prices the supply must exceed the demand right?

          • anon

            Sure. But what’s your point? That reducing housing prices is the only meaningful goal?
            Keeping prices from increasing – or even slowing the rental price increase (adding supply that does not outstrip the demand) -would be a plus in my book.

    • Lauren

      I plan to support and vote for Kenyon Mcduffie because of this bill. I’m all for it.

  • caroline

    why not just rent for 14 mightts still earn extra income and remain in within the bounds of a law that protects renters

    • lizcolleena

      Why not just focus on units that would otherwise serve as apartment rentals?

      • So, Just Sayin’

        Right? Or why not limit AirBnB restrictions or bans to units that would be subject to rent control or affordable housing set-asides.

    • How does a 15 day limit on renting out a room in your own home protect renters?

  • Anon3

    I did not find Gersen’s arguments particularly compelling. I own my home and am also a landlord. I also will soon have extra space (e.g. a finished basement), that i can potentially rent out, whether to a full time tenant or AirBnb. But i don’t really like how AirBnb is often used in the city. My thinking is that tenants in an existing property (whether a single family home or a multi-unit rental building) should not be allowed to do AirBnb – it’s a risk and nuisance to other residents, as well as the owner of the property. If you do own your home and want to host as an owner occupant, that’s fine – but there should still be some guidelines and limits on that, so your neighbors are not dealing with a constant stream of strangers wandering in and out (may be not 15 days, but something else – you do have a responsibility to be a good and responsible neighbor in your community). And of course, I definitely agree that multi-unit buildings meant to be apartment rentals should not be misused for short term rentals in AirBnb, because that does really hurt the supply of housing in the local market for residents. Plus, for hosts, there are also risks – you do see the AirBnb nightmare stories in the news once in a while. I think I am most likely just going to find a long term tenant when the basement is done….

    • anon

      Your point about a “constant stream of strangers” and nuisance level to neighbors is problematic. First of all, it’s a city, there are strangers walking in front of our house every day. Second, we live in our house and our neighbors know us. If there is a problem, they can talk to us about it.
      .
      We rent our separate basement apartment on Airbnb while we live upstairs. My next door neighbor does the same. I can honestly say I have never heard and barely see their guests and that goes for my own guests too. It has never been disruptive. If I didn’t know they rented their unit on Airbnb, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue they were doing it. I could understand this being a problem when renting an entire house or apartment where the owner is not present, but if a guest were to have a loud party or be disruptive, we would definitely know about it and put a stop to it immediately.

      • anonymous

        You live in a house, so either you are not empathetic to apartment dwellers or you just don’t get it. AirBnB has certainly been bad for neighborhoods (you can google that for more info), but AirBnB in apartment buildings is a whole other story! Apartment dwellers live in close proximity to each other- we have background checks in my building in order to at least partially protect us. When I had a problem tenant running a full-time AirBnB next door to me, I had problems contacting her about her “customers”- some of whom were doing things I cannot mention on this blog. That’s a huge issue. Furthermore, it was illegal anyway- she had no right to be profiting from or subletting a rent-controlled unit. Finally, the thing that got my management’s attention was when I alerted them to (a) the ad she was running, and (b) my intent to let my insurance company know who to take down (the landlord) if anything happened to [my specific and expensive possessions]. So sorry, but not sorry- I don’t buy that this is part of city living. I know all of my neighbors in my hall (and most of them on the other floors). Not knowing random strangers coming and going was not acceptable and was certainly not part of the agreement I signed up for.

        • textdoc

          Nicely articulated.

        • You can Google anything for more information, but that doesn’t mean the information is accurate. But you eventually did exactly what people should do if there is someone sub-letting out their rented apartment “under the counter” on Airbnb. Notify the landlord. Don’t engage with the tenant. Having the unit posted on Airbnb is clear enough to document a violation. Print it out, show it to the Landlord. We had this issue in my old condo building. One notification to the owner was enough.

        • anon

          Actually, I do get why people in condos or apartments would be anti-Airbnb, and I agree with their reasoning. If I lived in a condo, I would not be renting it on Airbnb for those reasons. But this new bill would affect those who live in houses the same as those who live in apartments. There is nothing saying “if you live in a house this doesn’t apply to you.” That’s the problem I have with it.
          .
          For people saying it’s disruptive to a neighborhood altogether, I disagree. I think if done right, it actually helps the local economy. I steer my guests toward local restaurants and bars- places they wouldn’t normally know about or have easy access to if they stayed in a hotel. That said, I do understand why it’s disruptive to apartment/condo dwellers and would support giving condo boards/management more leverage to curb the issue.

        • anon

          Your neighbor in a (rented?) apartment building seems like a different problem. It’s probably already illegal to do that as you mentioned, and your building probably has rules against it. This is a different situation from a home owner renting their house out while they are away, or renting an english basement.

  • MadMax

    You can complain all you want, but until AirBnB starts throwing money at the DC government folks the way the hotel chains do it won’t make much of a difference.

    • Andie302

      I took the day off tomorrow to go and speak out against this proposed legislation. We rented out our personal residence for 40 days last year. That was one 12 day trip plus 7-10 weekends/holidays where we were out of town anyway. Our house would’ve either been sitting empty, or full of people pumping their tourist dollars into the city. The 15 day limitation would also screw us in our basement rental because as proposed, if we’re not upstairs, then we can’t rent the downstairs. So anytime we want to travel above 15 days both units need to sit empty? How do they regulate that? I am hoping that the opposition is pretty evident at tomorrow’s meeting. We don’t need the money, we can afford our mortgage without it, but it’s certainly been easier to save for things like sprucing up our front yard (last spring) and replacing the roof (in the coming weeks). I wish they would focus their energy on improving the regulations in place (landlord tenant, for one) instead of this.

      • Andie302

        Sorry – meant to be a stand alone comment!

      • There are 88 people on the witness list for tomorrow’s hearing. (You’re #79 in case you didn’t know and want to plan when to arrive.) 6 are from Hotel unions or associations, 55 are “public witness” so there is no way to know which side they’re on.

        There are a couple of law firms & developers and about a dozen assorted advocacy organizations – (TENAC, Committee of 100 on the Federal City; DC fiscal Policy Institute: American Action Forum; Community Association Institute; Disability Power & Pride: DC federation Civic Association; Jews United for Justice; DC Jobs for Justice; Working Families Party; Many Languages One Voice; US campaign for Palestinian Rights; Washington Interfaith Network.)

        • Accountering

          How do I see the witness list? I am planning on testifying, but am hoping not to spend the entire day.

  • John

    I would like the District to make certain life safety requirements for short term rental locations. Commercial hotels are heavily regulated and must provide adequate signage, emergency lighting, and fire suppression systems (e.g. sprinklers) because guests, by their very nature, are unfamiliar with their surroundings. In an emergency situation, they need as much assistance as they can get.

    Much of the housing stock in DC is quite old and susceptible to fire dangers. In the interest of life safety, Airbnb rentals should be held at a higher standard than full-time homes.

    • Owners of ST rentals must have homeowner’s insurance that specifically covers ST rentals or risk losing their home in a lawsuit if a guest gets hurt. The insurance company has much more incentive than any government office to be sure the property is safe. I recently switched to a new insurer and had to send in detailed photos and descriptions showing compliance with safety standards.

      • Anon Spock

        Plenty of owners flout the rules for long-term rentals. I’m sure they do it for st also. Then you have renters doing bnb in the mix.

        • True, but irrelevant. Owners of property risk losing their property in a lawsuit by renting ST without proper insurance.

      • Anon

        Some people are bad at gauging unlikely-but-high-consequence risk; some people just don’t care; some people are renting properties that don’t actually own or insure themselves. I personally know several people who rent on AB&B but do not have ST rental insurance. No insurer is making sure the are complying with any safety standards, and someone who is seriously hurt or killed at their rentals will not be able to recover beyond what they can get from the owner.

        • Mamasan

          Not to mention that, unlike legal long-term rentals, there is no required inspection that guarantees the unit is in good working order and safe.

  • Anon

    McDuffie gave a presentation and took questions from my civic association a couple of weeks ago. 2 things he told us were interesting. First, that he wasn’t sure how they came to the 15-day rule. It sounded as though this hadn’t been really discussed or thought through, it was just an arbitrary number. He said he felt that the bill would eventually provide more days (90 days was brought up several times). Second, he claimed multiple times that the regulations and specifically the 15-day rule would not apply to English basements, or any room/space, if the owner is present and residing on the property. I don’t know if having a separate C of O for your basement changes that per the law, but he repeated this claim specifically about basement apartments multiple times to the group. The conversation led me to believe McDuffie and his staff hadn’t completely thought through the bill, what issues they were trying to solve with it, how it would be enforced, and the unintended consequences. Of course, he may have also just been feeding our civic association a bunch of BS…

    • BT

      I’m not a fan of this bill regardless, but figuring out the c/o thing for English basements (or 2 unit rowhouses generally) would be helpful. I’ll take out my extra kitchen if I have to to be legal (which would be ironic) but it would be nice to know whether or not its legal to rent my otherwise legal unit that is the other half of the rowhouse I live in.

      • BT

        Rent on Airbnb that is – DC’s anti-landlord laws create too much risk for it to be economical to rent to a long-term tenant.

    • ET

      New Orleans has it at 90 days so there is precedent for that time frame.

  • ET

    New Orleans and Air BnB got together and hammered out an agreement. Maybe DC should look at that one and go from there.

    http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/10/short_term_rentals_council.html

  • Jay

    Wow. This whole argument smacks of entitlement. I mean, how dare we interfere with his God-given right to get away for a weekend to “escape Inauguration madness”?

    He’s a student and he thinks he should be able to live in a neighborhood that is “expensive and increasingly preferred by DC’s most privileged residents.” LOL… I don’t think so! Furthermore, it sounds like he’s only “proud to be a DC resident” if he can live in one of these expensive, privileged neighborhoods. Certainly he could afford someplace else that’s a little more passe instead of being “forced” to move to Virginia.

    What’s more, the author conflates the notion of “affordable housing” (ie: the cost to rent) with “housing he can afford” (ie: his income level). Perhaps if you’re depending on some short-term rental profits to make your rent affordable, you’re living beyond your means? I don’t see any reason why we need to support that.

  • anonymous

    Bedbugs. I know DC folks travel a lot, but has anyone considered that having a constant stream of travelers in the apartment next door would, by definition, increase your already higher chances of getting bedbugs? Just a thought- add it to the heap of reasons why I vehemently oppose AirBnB in residential units, particularly apartment and condo situations.

    • Think logically. No homeower wants bedbugs in their own homes and will probably be even more attentive than hotels in checking for them. When a hotel has bedbugs, they simply shut off that one room (after the guest has already been infested!) and treat it, while continuing to have revenue from their 100 other rooms. An individual homeowner risks loss of all rental income, plus the expense of exterminating.

      ST rentals are 100% dependent on market forces – meaning competition and reviews. If you have a dirty or unsafe place, it will be reviewed poorly and no one will rent it.

      • anonymous

        Hi Victoria- I am thinking logically. My neighbor barely cleaned her AirBnB unit, so I doubt she was scrupulously looking for bedbugs. She didn’t even live in the unit, so there was no incentive to not have them. Who would actually notice and when? Indeed, your unit may be spreading them around without you knowing for a long time because that’s how bedbugs work. Totally logical.

      • Anon

        People are not 100% rational, and they are not good at gauging risk. This goes for both those who rent units and the renters.
        .
        I have some dear friends who rent units on AirBnB. While I love them, I would absolutely not want to be their neighbor. Their not particularly clean or well run (and definitely uninsured) rentals seem to be rented often, regardless of “competition and reviews.” Pricing below market helps.

      • navyard

        I didn’t know it was normal to check for bedbugs before there are any symptoms. How does one do this? I have heard of dogs being brought in to hunt for bedbugs, but is there a visual test?

  • KR

    There are plenty of legitimate things to regulate about how AirBnB and their “hosts” currently operate, but the 15-day max is absurd. I will fight it. I’ve never rented my house out, but I’d like to keep the option and 15 days is way too restrictive.

    That said, fears of unofficial hotels are well-founded, so limit the hosts to one property that can be rented in the city. But any owner should be able to rent that place as much or little as he or she chooses.

    Possible situations that should not be prevented by stupid laws:

    You’re a teacher with summers off. One of the reasons you chose that profession is to travel. The only way you can afford to is to rent out your place.

    That should be illegal?

    You have an English basement in your house. You bought the house knowing you had to rent it to get income but you want to keep it available for various stretches for family and friends to visit DC during the holidays, summers, etc., precluding it being a full-time year-round rental. No problem, use AirBnB.

    That should be illegal?

    You have a boat on the Chesapeake or a mountain cabin, but you’re far from rich. The only way you can afford to keep it is to rent your place out once or twice a month for the weekend.

    That should be illegal?

    You’re going to be between jobs and have intentionally built in a 6-week break between them for your dream trip. You want to rent your place out while you’re gone.

    That should be illegal?

    There are so many more. If it’s a property with an outside entrance (no security concerns about building access for strangers) and the host’s guests are not a nuisance then the neighbors should have NO RIGHT to object to what the host does with the property.

    • Amen – well put.

    • anon

      Yes, this is right. The top priority when deciding DC’s housing policy should be ensuring that residents can take extensive vacations to their boats, cabins, and the rest of the world.

      Oh, and if homeowners know that they will have to rent out their English basements to make ends meet, they’ll either rent it out long term or buy a different property.

      • KR

        Hey smart ass, show me where I said that it should be the “top priority” of “DC’s housing policy.”

        Not that it’s any of your business but I have a 20-year-old boat on the Bay that was my lifelong dream to buy. I drive an 13-year-old car and forego vacations to keep it, and I’d like to leverage my tiny little house by renting it occasionally to supplement my income.

        Go ahead and tell me, with all the smug self-righteousness you can muster, why that should be illegal.

        • anon

          Hey dumbass, go read some news. It’s not hard to find stories and research that shows AirBnB has made renting more expensive in plenty of cities. If DC wants to work toward having more affordable housing (whether the housing is either relatively or absolutely affordable, or even simply less unaffordable), reining in the effects of AirBnB on the rental market is a Good Thing. When you want the laws to protect your boats before they look out for the affordability of the DC rental market for people with moderate incomes, that’s not.

          Oh, and not that it’s any of your business, but I don’t have a boat, I don’t take vacations and I had to sell my 13 year old car to scrounge up the money to buy a cheap condo in an unfashionable part of town in order to insulate myself from any further rental increases. Now I take the bus and/or walk several miles to work every day.

          Go ahead and tell me, with all the smug self-righteousness you can muster, how sad your story is. I’m not a sympathetic audience.

          • anondc

            It’s great that DC wants to have more affordable housing. Why should a homeowner be forced to subsidize the city’s efforts by laws the prevent them from doing what they want with their property? As people have mentioned ad nauseum, many of these airbnb hosts would not make any housing available to renters on a long-term basis – this is just taking money out of their pocket to help the hotel industry.

          • lizcolleena

            Wow, anon, super rude.
            .
            I think you’re missing the point that governing all short term rentals with an umbrella law will apply unfairly and stupidly to different situations, obviously. Almost no one here is against improving the availability of affordable housing, but many of us who have educated ourselves on this pretty extensively see that regulating certain units that wouldn’t otherwise be on the market (basements, personal homes, etc.) just doesn’t make sense. We’re all for cracking down on professional hosts with dozens of units in apartment/condo buildings for rent. We see the consequences of their behaviour on the larger society. However, we don’t want to be lumped in with them for renting out our basements for extra cash (which, btw, I put towards retirement almost exclusively) or residences when we’re traveling. Is it really that hard to see the nuance?

          • lizcolleena

            I should say regulating ***in this manner*** I’m not opposed to safety or other regulations, but a cap as proposed is just dumb.

          • iltxdc

            @lizcolleena – So Anon is super rude, and KR is not for using the same language (and using it first)??? I have no dog in this fight, but at least be consistent with your sensitivities.

          • BlueStreak

            The tone of the posts were completely different. The use of the term “ass” notwithstanding.

          • KR

            And you have yet to explain, anon, in all your woe-is-me self-righteousness why any of the scenarios I described should be illegal. Not even a little. Who is being hurt? Please address the issue at hand. Why should the owner of ONE F#CKING PROPERTY not be allowed to rent it out as much or as little as he/she wants?

            Go ahead, anon. I’ll wait.

          • navyard

            You didn’t ask me, and I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but I’ll give it a try (if you promise not to call me names)
            —-
            Possible situations that should not be prevented by stupid laws:
            You’re a teacher with summers off. One of the reasons you chose that profession is to travel. The only way you can afford to is to rent out your place.
            That should be illegal?

            Response: You could do a home-trade situation instead. Then everyone would know that these are vacationers who are benefiting, and not potential renters who are losing out on affordability due to decreased supply.
            —-
            You have an English basement in your house. You bought the house knowing you had to rent it to get income but you want to keep it available for various stretches for family and friends to visit DC during the holidays, summers, etc., precluding it being a full-time year-round rental. No problem, use AirBnB.
            That should be illegal?
            —-
            Interesting. You need the income to afford it, but also want all the fun times available for guests. Well, I think your mortgage would assume some amount of rental income if you could show a history, and would reduce the expected income by some (20-25%) periods for vacancies. With short term rentals, I would think the banks would factor a higher likelihood for vacancy, so you may not qualify for the mortgage to begin with. But then that might be offset by higher prices. I’m leaning toward this is an unaffordable situation by the homeowner and I would decline the mortgage if I were a bank. Therefore…living above means.

            You have a boat on the Chesapeake or a mountain cabin, but you’re far from rich. The only way you can afford to keep it is to rent your place out once or twice a month for the weekend.
            That should be illegal?

            The major beef that I personally would have with this is that I bought or rented my home after researching my prospective neighbors, and not random strangers. Example: I didn’t sign on to watch someone else’s renters put the wrong things in the recycle bin or put trash out on the wrong day. These are silly examples, but they are the most likely to happen with regularity — and multiply this by 1000 ST rentals simultaneously, and then the district’s waste removal processes are thrown into a tizzy. I know, it’s kind of an out-there argument, but I’m trying to respond to each of your examples

            You’re going to be between jobs and have intentionally built in a 6-week break between them for your dream trip. You want to rent your place out while you’re gone.
            That should be illegal?

            Ahhh, a few years ago, the answer would definitely be yes. You are not allowed to take a break from work or take any dream trips until you can actually afford to pay for them in advance. But today? That actually sounds pretty good.
            Again though, I’d refer back to one of the many house-trading sites so that both parties are vacationing.

            There are so many more. If it’s a property with an outside entrance (no security concerns about building access for strangers) and the host’s guests are not a nuisance then the neighbors should have NO RIGHT to object to what the host does with the property.

            I live in a rowhouse and make it a point to know my neighbors by sight and when possible, by name. If I see someone I don’t recognize attempting to get into my neighbor’s house, I ask them who they are. My neighbors do the same for me. It makes our block much safer. This IS a public safety concern.

            Just my opinions and I admit I am not well-informed about the pros and cons of the legislation.

          • BlueStreak

            So navyard, you’re basically suggesting the same thing as airbnb, except that it’s a barter system instead of a cash system, making it much more difficult to accomplished. I mean if you’re going to let strangers stay in your house, why is it important that they are vacationing?
            And did you actually say you shouldn’t be “allowed” to take trips until you can pay for them in advance? Why do we care about others finances so much here? Why should it matter at all how someone spends their money. Or whether they are up to their ears in debt. The judgement is kinda crazy.

            And to your last point, I guess you could do extensive research on all of your neighbors, but that doesn’t mean they can’t let someone stay in their house that you don’t like or is poorly behaved. Or start throwing huge parties. Or just turn their house into a flophouse. It’s part of living in a city around others. You can always control what your neighbors do.

          • navyard

            @ BlueStreak:
            “you’re basically suggesting the same thing as airbnb, except that it’s a barter system instead of a cash system, making it much more difficult to accomplished. I mean if you’re going to let strangers stay in your house, why is it important that they are vacationing?

            Not much more difficult. There are plenty of web services already set up to do this. The difference I think is that it is a one-to-one relationship rather than a many-to-one. (you don’t have to share the person’s home who is staying in yours). The difference is that one is not income-producing but rather expense-saving.
            —-
            And did you actually say you shouldn’t be “allowed” to take trips until you can pay for them in advance?

            No, actually, I did not say that. (at least that wasn’t my intent). Substitute a comma for a period, but I think that’s pretty clear from the context anyway. The next statement was that it sounded pretty good to be able to take long trips. I’m just going to have to say you’re being antagonistic for no reason.

            And to your last point, I guess you could do extensive research on all of your neighbors, but that doesn’t mean they can’t let someone stay in their house that you don’t like or is poorly behaved. Or start throwing huge parties. Or just turn their house into a flophouse. It’s part of living in a city around others. You can always control what your neighbors do.

            Agreed. But I’d rather deal with one bad neighbor than a string of people who are on vacation. People who are on vacation are chill, relaxed, happy, and fun to be around. I, on the other hand, have to go to work in the morning. So I am stressed, angry, and really no fun at all. And misery loves company. /s

          • anon

            To anon – he’s not saying his story is sad, he’s just saying it’s not unreasonable! The point of this exercise is not to judge what people decide to spend their money on. what if i put all my AirBnB profit into my retirement savings? What if I donate all of it to a shelter? What would be good enough for you?

    • lizcolleena

      Excellent points, all around.

    • anon

      “You have an English basement in your house. You bought the house knowing you had to rent it to get income but you want to keep it available for various stretches for family and friends to visit DC during the holidays, summers, etc., precluding it being a full-time year-round rental.”
      .
      This is the situation that applies to us exactly. While we can afford the mortgage payments without the income (and have), Airbnb allows us a lot of extra breathing room that we wouldn’t have otherwise. And, since we want to be able to use the apartment for visiting friends and family, we would not rent it to a long-term tenant anyway.

      • BlueStreak

        I think that it’s absurd that people feel like they have to justify what they spend their money on to justify renting out their own homes.
        Even if I said, “I need the extra rental income for my mortgage and my meth habit,” that shouldn’t negate my arguements that this is bad policy.

        • anon

          I absolutely agree with you. I felt a little silly typing out why we chose to rent out our space, because really it’s no one’s business but our own. However, I do think it helps to put into perspective that most Airbnb hosts aren’t real estate developers stealing housing away from city residents.

        • anonymous

          Of course, it is your neighbor’s and the community’s business how you are using your property. That’s why we have zoning laws and other laws related to what goes on in housing (i.e., mandatory limits on occupancy, etc). In terms of being upset that you even have to justify why you need the money- well, that’s because pro-AirBnB people have made their arguments all about why they need the money and how this arrangement works in their interest. What needs to be said, though, is how it does not necessarily work in anyone else’s interests, including the neighbors who have to put up with it.

          • textdoc

            +1.

          • BlueStreak

            I am not sure how letting someone stay in my house when I am not there is affecting my neighbors. I have done it many times for free or for beer instead of money. Or for goodwill. On occasion I have even paid people money to stay in my house when I have gone. If the people that were staying in my house were having issues, my neighbors would have told me about it. But they never have. And if they had what does it matter if they were paying or non paying guests?
            So the fact that it’s organized thru airbnb makes it illegal or wrong or a nuisance?
            Again. I’m talking about my house that I live in. Not some big condo building or investment property. It seems absurd this is an issue.
            You can give it away but you can’t sell it. It’s silly on its face.

          • textdoc

            “If the people that were staying in my house were having issues, my neighbors would have told me about it.” Not saying this is applicable in your particular case, but I think you’re discounting how reluctant most people are to confront their neighbors about problems.

  • BlueStreak

    Tons to unpack here. I’ve never rented my house on AirBnb. I’ve never rented a place using AirBnb. Maybe I’d like the option one day. Here are my general thoughts.

    1) there seems to be a big difference between me renting out my house when I’m on vacation, vs. An entire condo building that rents out to only AirBnb, becoming a de facto hotel. Why is the same law going to apply to both of these situations?

    2) This is clearly an attempt by the hotel industry and hotel unions to protect their incomes. Maybe the overall law is good, but we should accept it as what it is. And when that happens we have to ask ourselves if one group’s income (hotels and hotel workers) deserves government protection over another group’s income (AirBnb hosts). And why we think that one group should be protected. Is it because it’s always been that way? Because we sympathize more with one group.? Is it actually a sound policy or does it just feel right?

    3) a lot of comments focus on “don’t live somewhere you can’t afford” or on the flip side “entitled AirBnb people.” I mean who are we to judge how someone can spend their money. And does it matter if the person pays their rent but uses the money to go out to dinner. What if the person said “I need AirBnb to make my life a little more enjoyable?” “Or “AirBnb makes living in DC a little easier for me.” Would that have been more acceptable? Why are we bothering to make these distinctions at all?

    4) For many people that rent out their houses on AirBnb, they would never rent them out as a long term rental, there is much less flexibility etc. the option is not AirBnb vs. the rental market, its AirBnB vs nothing. I admit this isn’t true for the person who owns lots of properties, but again, why aren’t we passing laws that focus on the actual problem?

    5) sure it’s funny this guy was a meth addict and dealer. And sure if you don’t like what he’s saying, you can score points discrediting him. But what does that have to do with his points about housing policy? Pure ad hominem attack, even if it is “publicly available”

    I’ve always had an issue with the government telling me that I can give something away for free, but that I can’t sell it. I accept that sometimes restrictions have to exist, but if they do, there needs to be a good reason. Is this really a good reason. Protecting hotels?

    • lizcolleena

      “1) there seems to be a big difference between me renting out my house when I’m on vacation, vs. An entire condo building that rents out to only AirBnb, becoming a de facto hotel. Why is the same law going to apply to both of these situations?”
      .
      I think you hit the nail on the head here. The same law shouldn’t apply!

    • anon

      Thank you for the most measured and thoughtful response in the thread!

  • anon

    I mostly agree with the OP. My problem is with people & companies who are renting out units that they do not live in on AirBnB full time – these are the de facto hotels. The “party houses” people have problems with. But Marc is renting out a room in his home when he is traveling. I just don’t see the justification of telling a homeowner that they cannot have other people stay in their home, if they are present or not at the time. There are other ways to deal with problem hosts who consistently are hosting huge, disruptive parties.

    I rented out my entire single-family home once on AirBnB when I went on vacation for a week, if I were more organized I could easily surpass 15 days a year. It helped with costs a lot, as I was renting a car, paying for vacation housing. etc. Is this really living beyond my means? Should I “face reality” and never go on vacation? What about the family who stayed there, who I assume were happy to comfortably visit DC with a small child for an affordable price?

    A lot of people buy homes with basement apartments to help pay the mortgage, should they face reality and live in a neighborhood they don’t like as much? Or was it a good strategy for choosing a home that provides rental income? I don’t see a problem with a home owner leveraging the desirability of their property into extra income.

    As long as you’re paying the taxes on the income, and otherwise not participating in illegal behavior, you should be able to do what you want with your home.

  • I just got back from the hearing, (where I testified against this bill) and here are a few thoughts. – The City Council really does not know what they are doing here, don’t really understand all the various aspects of short-term rentals and did not seem to have done even basic research on the industry before this hearing.

    They said they had held meetings with Airbnb & Expedia (VRBO & Homeaway) reps before this hearing, but had none of the basic information like how many rentals were full home, full time, room in a home, etc. or how many listings were for multiple units in a building – (the “illegal hotels” – that are really the impetus for this proposed regulation. )

    Also, some councilmembers REALLY love to just talk and talk! And ask the same questions over and over. When they finally got around to hearing witness testimony from those who had registered, it was much much better. There are a whole lot of smart people making logical arguments against this bill. Everyone agreed that some regulation was in order, but this bill is poorly written, overly restrictive and does nothing to support affordable housing.

    So the council is clearly miles away from a sensible resolution, so those who support a homeowner’s right to

  • Sad Panda

    1) Kudos to Gersen for getting his personal life together. I know people who have died because of drugs. It’s a big deal.
    2) More kudos to Gersen for participating in civic life. This is logical and well-written. Agree or disagree with his conclusion, submitting this testimony is a public service.
    3) Extra kudos to Gersen for not being deterred from participating because of his public record. Shame on the anonymous trolls who ridicule him.

  • Yes – he was really on message and effective.

  • The best testimony in the hearing came from a woman who owns a 4 unit rental in Anacostia who – rightfully – asked why it should be her responsibility to provide “affordable” housing. DC Council, sadly, had no answer.

    I think the real question is how can we – citizens- get people who are smart, objective, able to do research on an issue – to actually serve on our city council instead of the “and actually make good things happen.

  • JoDa

    Lots of interesting (and probably an equal amount of not-so-interesting) commentary here. I will start with my full disclosures: I have used AirBnB when visiting places/at times when traditional hotels are more than I want to spend, and to rent some unique properties. Additionally, as I begin thinking about a single family home in the next couple years, renting a basement space ST has intrigued me as a way to potentially buy or borrow a little more than I’m comfortable with (not necessarily “beyond my means,” but more than I’d want to commit myself to otherwise). Note that I would not be buying a place with a fully-equipped, legal English basement (those are largely out of my price range in my preferred neighborhoods), but rather a basement without a full kitchen but with a separate entrance and full bath, where a visitor could be comfortable with a private space, fridge (often mini), and some light cooking appliances (a hot plate or induction burner for making tea or coffee, microwave, toaster oven). In other words, if I rented it otherwise, the resident would be a roommate rather than a tenant, sharing the main kitchen, and I don’t want a roommate OR the hassles a long-term lease in my private home could bring.
    .
    So, that said, I can get behind a number of regulatory changes, but most of them don’t involve outright restriction of renting via AirBnb and the like. The one that does is, perhaps, multi-unit buildings being rented out entirely as short-term (in my mind, the line on that would be drawn at 30 days…the amount of time it takes to become a de facto lease holder in DC). Written well, I could get behind a limit on the number of units one person can own and rent out short term, or the number in the same building.
    .
    The first thing the Council needs to do is create a separate license class for ST rentals (again, rented for 30 days or less, at any time). Now we have a way to monitor and regulate ST rentals properly. Making this punitively expensive is NOT the point…the standard rental license rate (just shy of $200/2 years, $300/2 years for accessory units) seems reasonable, but the class should exist.
    .
    Another regulatory change I would support is making eviction for lease violations easier. If the Council wants to limit the number of “regular” apartments rented ST via sharing sites, just making it easier to evict for unpermitted subletting would help. But, since landlords might be “in on” a situation like that, or simply fail to write their lease well to prohibit subleasing without consent, I’d broaden this. Things that people tend to complain about if their neighboring unit is rented out ST are noise, trash, and over-occupancy (5 adults in a 1-bedroom apartment, for example). These are places to start.
    .
    In addition, laws could be passed making it easier for condo associations to enforce their rules and bylaws. The question has been asked here, as well as to me…if someone breaks the condo association rules/bylaws, what are you *really* going to do about it? You can impose steep fines…but what if the owner just pays them? What if they even DON’T? In the former case, the association is left to use common funds to file suit against the owner, perhaps get injunctions, and then enforce them. In the latter, it’s sue, lien, and foreclose. Both are time-consuming and extremely expensive. In buildings with amenities, sure, you can deactivate their key fob for the fitness center, pool, etc., as inducement, but that seems like a slap on the wrist (so they get a little less for their ST rental because the guests can’t access the fitness center and pool?).
    .
    Another “stealthy” law that would limit the impact of ST rentals is to prohibit any address with a ST rental license (see above on the need for the class) from getting visitor parking permits (yearly/permanent or 2-week police issued). Then, you either have to advertise your place as no parking or have off-street parking (when I’ve AirBnB’ed in other cities, no parking wouldn’t have mattered to me…I didn’t have a car since I was on vacation in a CITY).
    .
    Limiting ST rentals to 15 days/year unless the owner is present on the property is unnecessarily punitive to owner-occupants who use their home as a home and earn some extra scratch renting out rooms/basement suites, or only rent their place when they travel, and is nearly unenforceable. If I have a basement suite that I rent out on AirBnB, how is the city going to know whether I’m home? I travel more than 15 days a year, but rarely more than that at a time (yes, I’m one of those federal employees…and, yes, I get 4 weeks of AL plus 10 federal holidays off, plus weekends!), so even if they employed an army of inspectors to “check up on me,” the chances they’d figure out it was the 16th or 30th day that year that I wasn’t home, but my basement was occupied, are next to zero. Even with people renting out whole apartments/homes (like Andie), the thought of them being able to count up the number of days properly is laughable.
    .
    To borrow a line: make laws, not too many, mostly enforceable.

    • To JoDa – sorry, TLDR it all, but do be aware that if you buy a house with the intention of renting the basement as a ST rental that doesn’t have a separate entrance, it will be difficult to get homeowner’s insurance that covers it. Airbnb does offer insurance, but no one really knows how effective it is.

      • JoDa

        Thanks for the head’s up on that, but I knew. I wouldn’t buy a place without a separate entrance with the intention of doing ST renting. The line I was drawing was legal accessory unit (per DC law, full kitchen and no stairs from the main home upstairs) vs. basement suite with separate, exterior entrance. There are many homes I’ve seen that fall into the latter category. I will still double-check with insurance before doing anything, but I was looking in the “intermediate” space. :)

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