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Plan To Limit Airbnb Hosts To 180 Days A Year Gets OK From Planning Commission

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The Bonnie M. Smith residence. (Photo by Michael Locke via the LAist Featured Photos pool)
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On Wednesday the Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved an ordinance that would prohibit Airbnb hosts from renting out their units more than 180 days a year, reports KPCC.

The ordinance, if voted in by the City Council, will become the city's first set of regulations on the short-term rental industry. Aside from the 180 days rule, the ordinance will also require hosts to pay "Transient Occupancy Taxes" to the city.

One of the potential issues of the ordinance is that it may be difficult to enforce. Airbnb and other rental companies don't disclose the addresses of their rental hosts, which means that it will be hard for city code enforcement to keep track of rental hosts. During Wednesday's meeting the commission wondered if it was feasible to depend on rental hosts to pay taxes and self-report the number of days they've rented their unit. Airbnb, in past proceedings, have taken a stance against divulging information about their hosts and renters.

After Wednesday's ruling, John Choi, Airbnb's Southern California Policy Manager, told LAist that the company "is ready to provide the info and data that the city needs to enforce their codes" and that "one of Airbnb's most important priorities is to work towards laws that are very clear."

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But Choi also reiterated the company's stance on privacy. He said that some Airbnb users, if they've been past victims of stalking or domestic abuse, do not want their location divulged in fear of being tracked. When it comes what type of information that Airbnb will be providing to the city, the company wants to "strike a balance in L.A.," said Choi.

According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, the ordinance will also impose stiff punishment: every violation may be tagged with a $2,000 fine, and every third violation will mean that the host will be prohibited from renting for year.

The debate over short-term rentals has been heating up in the past couple years. Long-term residents claim that short-term rentals are bringing in rowdy out-of-towners. Some also claim that short-term rentals are driving up rent, and that landlords have evicted their tenants to turn their apartments into rentals. Some Airbnb hosts say that the rentals help them stay afloat financially, though this might be an exception to the norm. And some believe that the rentals bring in tourism money to the city. "Short-term rentals have long served the more than 40 million tourists who visit Los Angeles annually looking to experience our city's culture, entertainment, coastline and more," Leron Gubler wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Daily News.

The proposed ordinance is expected to go before the City Council later this summer.