One day after a Boston City Council vote, Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed the citywide ordinance establishing guidelines and regulations to better track and regulate short-term rentals in the City of Boston. This ordinance will go into effect on January 1, 2019 with a provision allowing current lease holders operating short term rentals the opportunity to continue operating until September 1, 2019.
The ordinance bans short-term rentals from non-owner occupied buildings, eliminating investor units and absentee Airbnb landlords. Owner-occupants may continue to list their own unit, a part of their unit or an adjacent whole unit in their building as a short-term rental for 365 days per year.
“My goal in regulating short-term rentals has always been to responsibly incorporate the growth of the home-share industry into our work to create affordable housing for all by striking a fair balance between preserving housing while still allowing Bostonians to benefit from this new industry,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am proud to sign this ordinance today and I am committed to monitoring the impacts to ensure it serves its intended purpose in our neighborhoods.”
The regulations also provide protections for the occupants of the short-term rental unit by prohibiting any property with outstanding housing, sanitary, building, fire or zoning-code violations from being listed. In addition, the operator is required to provide notice to abutters of a short-term rental unit within 30 days of approved registration.
The regulations require the unit to register with the City of Boston each year to verify compliance with the provisions of the ordinance, and pay an annual license fee. Penalties will be incurred to any person who offers an ineligible unit as a short-term rental, fails to register, or fails to comply with a notice of violation.
To assist with the enforcement of regulations, booking platforms will be required to provide the City with monthly data and information relative to the short-term rental listings that detail the location and occupancy numbers.
In January, the City released a Request for Information (RFI) to identify software solutions that will enable operators to register and renew short-term rental units online, and facilitate the enforcement of the conditions of allowable short-term rental use.
Boston’s North End has been one of the hardest hit neighborhoods by short-term rentals. As of this writing, there are hundreds North End rentals listed on Airbnb alone (link), primarily in investor owned units. In a recent investigation by the Alliance of Downtown Civic Associations and published by Commonwealth Magazine, one fake Airbnb host “Anthony” had over 40 listings in the North End, seeded by a local realtor to a New York agency.