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AirBnb Rentals in Boston’s North End

This hearing is scheduled for December 12, 2016, 4:00 p.m. at Boston City Hall, in the 5th Floor City Council Chambers. The public is welcome to attend and testify at the hearing.

District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina (North End, East Boston, Charlestown) and District 3 Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester) called for a hearing at the City Council regarding new regulations for AirBnb and other home rental websites.

“My major concern is that these Airbnb’s and other on line Rental Services are taking permanent housing away from neighborhoods and because of that and the tight market that we are already experiencing,” said LaMattina at the City Council meeting. “It is making it more and more difficult for working families to find an housing and for some of them to stay in in our neighborhoods. Another major concern that I have is investors buying up properties and in a lot of cases displacing longtime residents and turning those proprieties to Virtual Hotels,” LaMattina continued.

Opposing new AirBnb regulations, Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury) urged caution about stopping innovation, and Councilor Bill Linehan (South Boston) pointed out that some of his constituents, particularly seniors who are struggling to make their property tax payments, need this as a revenue source to stay in their homes.

A search on AirBnb.com found about 20 current listings in the North End with rates of $79 up to $315 per night.

Citing 270 current AirBnb listings in his District, LaMattina also addressed the quality of life issues. “I have heard from my constituents that they have concerns about living next to these airbnbs. You want to know your neighbor is, so you can look out of each other.” The matter was sent to the Committee on Housing and Community Development to schedule a hearing.

AirBnb recently announced changes to its home listing site in New York City, responding to new regulations that would limit hosts to one rental listing at a time. NYC previously passed an ordinance in 2010 that prohibit rentals less than 30 days in multiunit buildings if the tenant is not present. New York Gov. Cuomo is now considering a bill that would impose fines up to $7,500 on hosts that violate the law.

December 4, 2016 Update: This post was updated to reflect the hearing date.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. We had our sons in laws and other family use the North End ones a couple of years ago. They were awesome! It is a double edge sword. I see both sides. But love the fact they are here to host family and friends. Hotel roms aren’t for everyone.

  2. I don’t think the regs will stand in a court test. I spoke with the City Codes about this once and they said that all their litigation attempts had failed. However, condo by-laws are the best protection. But mostly, this is 14th Amendment issue.

  3. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the North End Councilor LaMattina and Councilor Baker (who doesn’t even cover the North End but always has our best interest). This is why you always get my vote!
    Keep up the good work and the great fight!!!!

  4. The politicians need to be informed and not pander to local hysterics. There is currently a glut of apartments that were not absorbed from September 1. Also, the typical AirBnB renter is a working professional or a family or couple traveling and either need a kitchen for dietary needs or just do not care for hotels.
    The only way to regulate this is through individual condo association documents that limit rental time.
    At the rate the real estate taxes are at, how else do people survive? are we going to get a rebate when we have vacant units because the city keeps approving hundreds of new apartments?

  5. I stand corrected. Many states and cities are all ready curbing short term rentals like AirBnB. See http://www.marketwatch.com/story/airbnb-proposes-new-set-of-rules-in-new-york-ahead-of-possible-regulation-2016-10-19.

    The state and local argument is that short term rentals are operating as a hotels, but not paying taxes. Abutting neighbor arguments are short term renters cause disturbances late at night, which makes it hard for the working population. Also, I have noticed that they will sometimes bring their dogs, but not pick up after them. Short term rentals bring in more revenue for the landlord, however, if you have a problem with absentee landlords now, it only gets worse when you have a population of people with no commitment to the neighborhood at all. Finally, it does raise rents on all rentals. This we see in particularly in tourist places. Most working people can’t afford to pay rents where they are competing with short term stays. The article above seems to dwell on states and their want of taxes.

  6. I had a cousin come from Italy and stayed in the North End at a very affordable rate. Essentially the unit was a bedroom and the host lived in the building which was operating as a church. It was an excellent solution for the owner to support high tax costs and still operate a church. plus it was very affordabl;e rate for my cousin who could not afford hotel rates.It seemed like a perfect solution for all involved.

  7. The main reason AirBnBs are popular is because they offer tourists a less expensive alternative to hotels in otherwise pricey downtown neighborhoods in major cities like Boston. The problem is when you have absentee landlords essentially running unregulated and untaxed hotels in residential neighborhood locations not zoned for that type of activity. All short-term rentals remove affordable apartments from an already tight market, raise rents, and bring the nuissance complaints associated with transient traffic. This is why they need to be registered, monitored, and reguated so that only owner occupied units are allowed to participate.

    • The argument that the airbnbs are untaxed is so false. Any amount people recieve as rent are reported to the IRS and the landlords pay tax on this income so stop with that lie. The only tax that isn’t there is a hotel tax which an airbnb shouldn’t have to pay since they aren’t a hotel. This is just the older generation stuck in there ways and comparing for the sake of complaining.

      • You kind of missed the point,they don’t pay hotel tax and provide day rentals which is what hotels do. If the income does report to the IRS, the.landlord deducts condo fees, mortgage ,depreciation and expense to heat, plus utilities to offset income. Worth checking also, how many cheat on property tax by declaring themself as residential. These do operate as hotels, maximize income to the owners and cheat taxes placing expenses like trash collection for their transients on local residents and up keep of common areas on fellow owners. This is really people like yourself hitchiking a free ride.

        • Im sorry but since when should anyone have to pay rental income on the gross amount the receive. You completely miss the point. Yes the are able to deduct mortgage INTEREST, depreciation and other expenses associated with that property that is being rented. Why would they not be? Or do you volunteer to pay more income tax every april?

          Also the hotel/occupancy tax basically is a form of sales tax. So that would be amounts collected from the individual renting the property, so it wouldn’t cost the landlord anything. It would however needlessly raise the amounts the people have to pay to rent the property.

          I have never used Airbnb in Boston, nor do I own an airbnb property. However, i have used the properties when visting other states as a cheaper alternative to hotels. You add the occupancy tax and your starting to take away the benefits of the airbnb. The explanation that the airbnb’s need to be regulated because they avoid paying tax is just plain false, and is being discussed by people who don’t understand tax law.

          • Well you are getting closer. Not only Boston, but other places too are experiencing housing shortages as investors buy properties and reduce the available housing supply for people that need places to live. These cater to the jet setters such as yourself, at the expense of the local population and the people who maintain the building for the commercial enterprise within. Supply and demand issues will eventually work themselves out, but in the meantime operating an AirBnB or VBRO is a commercial operation. Aside from hotel taxes, not declaring or registering as a business in this state is also a tax dodge. Ever pay taxes in Massachusetts as a business? You can be subchapter S or whatever you want, but you still pay.

            Again, this is not a problem that is unique to Boston, I am seeing this play out across the nation. Essentially, it plays out as housing shortage, local disturbance and revenue loss. The result will more regulation like this. The attack points will be fees and tax collection, registration plus evidence of safety and fire prevention standards and zoning laws. Most short term rentals violate more than one of the above.

            • Again you couldn’t be more wrong in your assessment of how the tax law operates. You are not required to incorporate a rental property for tax purposes. Many rental properties incorporate for liability purposes. But again your are just way of base with what you are saying. Many people incorparate by ways of a single member LLC and in which case all of the income is filed under their personal return. Have you ever filed a tax return with the state of Mass? Maybe you just don’t pay attention, but there is a schedule E for rental income which this income would be. AirBNB and VBRO act as the management company, but all of the landlords will receive a Form 1099 at the end of the year which reports the gross rents received on that property and is sent to the IRS and the Mass DOR. So I am sorry to be the one to tell you how it works, but that income is taxed no matter if it files as a C-corp, Partnership, or on the individual level. Also, you mentioned a Sub chapter S as an example, sorry that wouldn’t work in this case. I am sure you are aware Subchapter S corporations can’t have passive income, which rental income is.

              Again if you want to debate the regulations of who is coming and going from these properties thats a separate argument we can have. But please get your facts straight, this isn’t a way of dodging taxes. In fact its a way of increasing taxes. Because any one who were to rent an apartment on craigslist for a few days would have to self report their income. In this case AirBNB and VBRO are responsible of reporting the income the landlords received.

              • You have no idea, Young resident.There is no 1099, at least with VRBO. That’s also a reason why VRBO is terrible to deal with for renters – they position themselves as a go-between only (Hello, Uber), they take their service fee and they deeply don’t care what happens between the renter and landlord.

                So, landlord can do whatever he wants and I’m willing to bet that significantly more than 50% don’t report all income.

                You argument is not new. You feel that all technology is good and the “old people”juts don’t like it. That might or might not e a valid argument, but if you pay any attention to Uber, Lyft, VRBO, AirB&B… there are many sides to teh story (and, believe me, I travel a lot and use all of them). For example, the how would you feel if you were a regulated taxi business (or hotel business) suddenly having to compete with unregulated business? Would that be fair? Again, I’m not particularly old, nor am I a fan of regulations, by any stretch, but there’s more to it than just flippantly stating that this is “just technologies”. On the other hand, I would agree that actual regulations of short term rentals should come from the building boards themselves.

  8. Sorry Mike but i do know what i am talking about. The form 1099 is not issued to the renter since he has nothing to do with the income. Once a landord hit the limit of $600 minimum threshold, airbnb or VRBO are required to file a form 1099. The Form 1099 is issued to the LANDLORD, and a copy sent to the IRS. Unfortunately you can’t write off a vacation as a tax deduction so there would be no point in sending the form to the renter.

    I do however see your point in once the airbnb or VRBO get there fee they seem to be pretty hands off and it is up to you and the landlord to work it out. I have been lucky and haven’t had any real issues while using the service, but i can see where that could be a potential for a problem. But the other side to that argument, is i would compare the airbnb and vrbo companys to that of a realtor (all be it a much shorter time period than a year lease). Once the realtor has the signed lease documents you are pretty much on your own to deal with the landlord.

  9. Again, VRBO does not send out 1099. If you have proof to the contrary, please show it. Alternately, see what 1099 is and think of whether VRBO considers landlords as contractors. Even easier – understand that in many cases VRBO has no idea what the landlord actually charged you at the end.

    BTW, I never said that 1099 would be issued to renters. That would be asinine. I said that VRBO is hard to deal with for renters _for the same reason_ they don’t issue 1099s – VRBO doesn’t consider themselves a part of actual transaction. They are, in their own mind, a bulletin board, for lack of a better term. They charge service fee for landlord to post his advertisement. Also, VRBO is not really a single company, They, along with several others, belong to HomeAway, which is a non-US entity, and, as such, has absolutely no obligation or interest to issue any 1099s to anyone. AirBnB is a little different, they charge a a fee to the renter and actually process money and pay the landlord. But that’s another story.

    BTW, you can see the actual landlords here: https://community.homeaway.com/thread/20330 They do nto receive 1099 from VRBO, as I expected

    The realtor comparison is actually pretty interesting and valid. But, as you probably know, a Realtor (well, brokers working for Realtor, but that’s semantics) actually has to pass an exam and are pretty seriously regulated, including, in theory, having to tell the truth and not disappear with your earnest money, etc. When you buy or sell RE you’ll have to sing a contract with a broker that goes into some details a to responsibilities, protections for both sides, etc. VRBO and AirBnB also have an agreement. It’s a click through. Show me 6 people on this planet that have actually read the details and know what’s in there.

    PS. I’ve rented through VRBO and AirBnB as a guest in Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Israel, multiple times in US. Probably at least a dozen times in the last 2 years alone. I don’t know their landlord site, other than from talking to landlords and to their customer services.

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