Air BnB Law Passes First Council Vote

Law Limits, Regulates Short-Term Rentals

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Screen shot of Airbnb page showing homes in Capitol Hill area. On Tuesday, legislation restricting short-term rentals on this and similar sites unanimously passed council on the first vote.

On Tuesday, DC Council voted to approve a bill that would restrict short-term rentals in the District. The ‘Short-term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2018’ was introduced by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5-D). 

In a statement released Thursday morning, McDuffie said the goal is to regulate participation in homesharing and to address abuse by commercial operators as well as community concerns about short-term hotels or ‘party houses’ in residential neighborhoods.

The act, which was first introduced last year, limits homesharing through sites such as AirBnB to a primary residence. If the host is at home, there is no limit on the days they can rent space. If they are away from home, there is a 90-day limit on short-term rentals. That limit is an increase from the 15-day cap initially proposed.

An amendment put forward by Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) to increase the cap from 90 to 120 days failed by a vote of 8 to 5.

The law also forbids short-term rental of a second or third residence, or short-term rentals of commercial property. The goal is to limit the number of housing units that become short-term rentals and so preserve housing stock during a period of shortage throughout the District.

Councilmembers cited the bill as a way to protect the diversity of the city’s residents. “In a city in the grips of what I believe is an undeniable housing crisis, we can’t ignore that the shift from traditional home sharing to a commercial industry makes in much harder for our own residents to stay in this city,” said Councilmember Robert C. White Jr. (At Large-D), explaining his support at the first vote on the bill.

The act addresses the amorphous nature of the industry, moving to create a regulatory framework. It creates a new ‘short-term rental’ business license, and obligates hosts to keep records on guests for up to two years. The law requires short-term rental hosts to have information on file for a point of contact who is accessible 24 hours a day. Rental sites are expected to check business numbers and disallow so-called vacation rentals, or rentals where the host is not present, after the 90-day limit.

“This legislation is not a ban on short-term rentals in the District of Columbia,” said McDuffie. “It permits residents to host short-term rentals at their primary residence which includes English basements, carriage houses, or any other unit located on the property.”

The bill passed unanimously October 2, and is expected to have its second and final hearing October 16.