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Santa Monica Will Patrol The Streets For Airbnb Lawbreakers

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The Airbnb crack down on the westside just got real. After banning short-term vacation rentals last week, Santa Monica plans to create an enforcement team to monitor listings on Airbnb and similar sites. The city plans to hire three full-time staffers to review listings on short term rental sites and identify unlawful rentals. Under the new regulations—which go into effect in mid-June—property owners and residents are not allowed to rent out their homes unless they are also staying there themselves.

Enforcement won't be easy though. Since Airbnb and other home-sharing rental sites don't list addresses, the task force will have to examine photos of listings and cruise the streets of Santa Monica trying to snoop out law breakers. Fines for violators that they're able to identify could reach up to $500.

The city estimates that the ban will affect roughly 80 percent of the listings or about 1,400 units on sites like Airbnb. Opponents see many of these vacation rentals, where the owner or resident is off-site, as de facto hotels that skirt regulations and cause a spike in rental prices.

The enforcement team won't start patrolling right away, though. Initially, the city plans will spend the first few months educating those who aren't in compliance. It won't force those who have already rented to cancel vacation plans last minute.

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Assistant planning director Salvador Valles explains Santa Monica's proactive enforcement approach: "We will be looking to reach out to the community, reach out to those individuals who are currently listing to try and educate them about the law and try to work with them to get self-complaint."

The new short term rental ordinance also says that Airbnb and other sites will have to disclose names, addresses, length of stay and price for listings in Santa Monica. They suspect they will have to subpoena the information from the companies as they have been reluctant to turn it over in other cities.