Airbnb provides an alternative lodging to hotels but with new regulations posed to take place in Pasadena, what does that mean for those who rent out their home or a room as a place to stay?
BY: Ciera Cypert
The cozy residential alternative to the pricey (and sometimes confining) hotel room has been under some heat by the Pasadena City Council. There’s no need to lose sleep if you’re a tourist looking to book an Airbnb, but for Airbnb hosts, it may cause some nightmares.
Hotel rooms in Pasadena are always at a premium as the city continues to nurture small businesses, and so remains a local residency option for citizens who desire to stay away from the downtown Los Angeles lights and smog. Yet, tourism and business travel alike, continue to grow in Pasadena.
As of September 2017, over 730 Pasadena properties have been listed as Airbnbs hosting spaces and in 2016, over 31,000 people stayed in an Airbnb in Pasadena. Clearly a popular option for visiting guests, this growing lodging option has not only caught the attention of tourists, but the city council as well.
David Reyes, director of Planning and Community Development, attended the city council meeting held on October 2, 2017 in city hall, the latest of three city council meetings in regards to this issue. He described home sharing and short-term rentals as a “gray area” in terms of legality because up until this point, there were no ordinance regulations for Airbnb rentals.
A majority of Pasadena Airbnb options are not technically filed under “home-sharing units,” meaning when you check into your Airbnb, the host or owner is physically living in that space. Two-thirds are marked as “entire dwelling units” or empty homes, that hosts allow guests to stay in by themselves.
Expansive growth is often accompanied by new regulation, and Airbnb has had to respond to the Pasadena City Council’s revisions. The question then remains: does there need to be someone in these homes while they are being rented out to visitors?
There seems to be some resistance to the idea of renting out a home with no owner residing in it, as many Pasadenans value their quiet neighborhoods and privacy. To the guest it is probably ideal—the idea of an empty home, but for the host there is the potential for trouble.
Mayor Terry Tornek stated that Airbnbs do not need to be prohibited, but rather regulated. His opinion was that short-term rental homes with hosts, meaning the owner of the property or someone associated with that property is present while the unit is rented, should not face restrictions. However, if there is no host present, or an empty home is being rented, there should be a limit of 90 days per year.
There is no doubt that the Airbnb boom has brought more visitors to Pasadena, meaning more money and more business for the city. This is a good thing, but for some Pasadena residents, it is a cause for tension. On both sides. Neighbors are naturally concerned with the impact of non-permanent residents in their neighborhoods, and the increased regulation on home rental business, where before there was little to none, has a sudden, and possibly negative effect on income that had come to be relied on.
So rules of some kind seem prudent and required. But who’s going to be there to enforce these rules? Here in Pasadena the city requires permits, and Airbnb will ask that permit numbers be included in their listings, but Airbnb’s policy manager, John Choi, stated that they will refuse to block listings that did not have a permit. Airbnb does not enforce rules, but believes that it is up to the city to control.
Here’s what you need to know:
If you are a host or owner of a short-term rental home, there will be some changes. The new changes require short term rental owners to apply for a permit and a city business license. The administrative guidelines need to be established prior to the effective date on the permit. Proof of residency is required for the specific address where the Airbnb is open for rental.
If you continue to host Airbnb guests in your home without a permit, you could be subject to fines. The price of the fine has not been established, but the regulation is out there that you must obtain a permit.
Make sure to let your neighbors know. Hosts will need to “self-certify” that their neighbors are aware of their home sharing business, as most reports of problems with home-sharing units are lodged by neighbors.
Hosts must now remit the Transient Occupancy Tax, which in the Los Angeles County is a tax of 12 percent on home sharing services. Commonly referred to as the “bed tax,” this occupancy tax is projected to bring in a total of $600,000 a year to city coffers.
For now at least, it looks like Airbnb lodgings in Pasadena are not going anywhere. If you are a traveler, or have friends and family coming to visit, the option of residential short-term rentals will continue. But, if you are or have sites on becoming a b&b host, the rules will be a little different and you need to be aware of the changes or you could end up being fined.