Everyone wants to experience living in the bustling and historic North End. With local hotels charging over $300 for a weekend nights stay, many tourists and visitors have turned to online services such as Airbnb for short-term rentals. On a busy night, there can be dozens of these temporary tenants renting apartments in the neighborhood. The success of Airbnb has spurred other similar websites and mobile phone apps such as: Flipkey, HomeAway, 9Flats, and VRBO.
Renting out a North End apartment, room (or even just a bed) can help offset the high cost of living in the neighborhood. The service of hosting is particularly popular with residents who have extra space or frequently travel out of the city for periods of time.
The City of Boston has yet to grapple with the legal, economic and liability issues surrounding short-term rentals. Hotel companies charge taxes, employ workers and have to meet strict fire and security codes. Airbnb says it is not a hotel company, but simply matches hosts and guests while offering a secure payment system.
Some neighbors worry whether or not these “temporary tenants” will exacerbate quality of life problems such as noise, trash and parking. Much of the burden falls on hosts and property owners for ensuring their tenants abide by the rules.
New York City, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, are a few cities that have implemented regulations to oversee or restrict rental services of less than 30 days. Some have begun to assess hotel taxes on the rentals. Closer to home, Quincy, Mass. has banned the service outright. Mayor Marty Walsh says that the city will consider possible regulations. But so far, Inspectional Services Department is not fining residents given the legal grey area of offering these services.
Airbnb has been gaining popularity in the North End, typically offering over 70 available rentals in the North End from $65 to $400 per night. Click here to see the currently available addresses in the neighborhood.
The websites allow you to search based on desired amounts of bedrooms, room type (entire place, private room, shared room), amenities (TV, wireless internet), property type (apartment, condos) and more. Also available to rent are a few yachts and boats that are docked in the waterfront area. The services uses reviews as a way of reporting problems with particular rentals. Potential hosts and guests can communicate through a messaging system, maintaining personal profiles.
District 1 Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina, who represents the North End, East Boston and Charlestown, has called for a hearing to seek regulations. Councilor LaMattina worries about that this practice may turn neighborhoods that are zoned for residential living into “impromptu hotel districts.” LaMattina told Boston Magazine that he “hopes to bring representatives from the Boston Fire Department, Inspectional Services Department, Assessing Department, Consumer Affairs and Licensing Department, and Law Department together in one room, along with the general public, to discuss the pros and cons of online rental websites like Airbnb.”