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Santa Monica Busts Its First Airbnb 'Rentalpreneur'

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Santa Monica just convicted a short-term vacation rental operator for the first time. And, it's a guy who apparently wrote a book on how to make six figures being a "rentalpreneur."Scott Shatford pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of operating illegally on Tuesday, July 5, according to Surf Santa Monica. He will be on probation for two years and must pay over $3,500 in fines.

Shatford operated five short-term rentals in Santa Monica. He is the first person to be convicted of illegally operating a short-term vacation rental in Santa Monica since the city decided to ban most short-term rentals in May of 2015. The he city had previously attempted to curb the practice via outreach, and also created an enforcement team to review listings.

City officials claim that Shatford was one of the worst offenders, or at least one of the most outspoken. Denise Smith, a code enforcement analyst for the city of Santa Monica, said that Shatford "boasted publicly that he was 'not concerned' about local law because it would be difficult for the City to enforce the law." Now, city officials are actively making an example of him.

"We want to the public to know this is serious. It's our job to seek justice and in this case, I think justice was served," Deputy City Attorney Yibin Shen said.

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In addition to operating the short-term rentals, Shatford also founded Airdna, which, according to his Linked In, "provides data and analytics to vacation rental entrepreneurs and investors." He is also author of The Airbnb Expert's Playbook: Secrets to Making Six-Figures as a Rentalpreneur.

Shatford is responding to the conviction by getting out of town. He said he and his family are moving to Denver, which he says is more progressive and "isn't in the pocket of the hotel lobby." They do have legalized weed there, after all. And he still thinks enforcement of the ban isn't particularly feasible, claiming the city spent $1,200 booking his rentals in order to prosecute just him alone.

Not all short-term rentals are banned in Santa Monica. New rules state that residents will not be allowed to rent out an entire unit for fewer than 30 days at a time. Santa Monica residents can, however, practice "home-sharing." This means that the resident actually lives in the home and simply rents out the couch or an extra room. To do so legally, these residents must get a business license, pay Santa Monica's 14% hotel tax, and be around during their renters' stays. Otherwise, the city will consider the rental a short-term vacation rental, not home-sharing.

Santa Monica's reasons for the ban mirror those of several other nearby cities contemplating the same issue. Some residents complain that greedy property owners are snapping up units that could be rented to people who actually live here so they can make money off of tourists. Others argue that it's a good way for residents to make extra money as housing costs rise. Just last month, Anaheim decided to ban short-term rentals. Anaheim, of course, enjoys plenty of tourism due to Disneyland, its convention center, and its sports teams. Those in favor of the ban argued that affordable housing was being removed by short-term rental operators, and those opposed claim that those same operators were fixing up problem properties and putting them to use.

[h/t Curbed LA]