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Santa Monica Moves To Ban Most Airbnb Rentals

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Airbnb Pop-up in Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Photo by current events via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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If your out-of-town relatives are planning to vacation beachside in the coming weeks, they better book soon. Santa Monica unanimously voted to support a draft of new rules that would ban full-time 'vacation rentals' through rental sites like Airbnb—though it would still allows hosts to rent out a spare room or cottage under strict conditions.

The proposed rules could come to a final vote soon and go into effect by June, enacting what would be some of the region's strictest rules on the growing short-term rental industry, KPCC reports.

The new regulations—proposed by Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown—would specifically ban 'vacation rentals,' in which the host leaves the property during the rental. It would still allow for 'home-sharing,' which means the rental host stays on the property while renting out a room or a cottage. Short-term rental hosts would also be required to have a business license and pay a 14% hotel tax. The ordinance would reinforce a poorly enforced ban on vacation rentals where an absent host rents the entire unit.

The proposed rules take aim at landlords that have been turning apartments into de facto hotels—a trend that has worried housing advocates, hotel worker unions and neighbors—while still allowing Santa Monica residents to earn a little money on the side. If the ban goes into effect, city officials expect that it would make a huge dent in the vacation rental market, banning about 1,400 of the roughly 1,700 listings found on the three major rental websites.

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West Hollywood is considering a ban on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites, and city officials in Los Angeles are also keeping a close watch on the Santa Monica proposal. L.A. city council member Mike Bonin told KPCC that he's exploring ways to regulate short-term rentals in his districts, which includes neighboring Venice.

"It's probably going to take the city of Los Angeles longer to craft a series of regulations," Bonin told KPCC. "What I'm looking at is if we can do something temporary in the short-term."

The LA Times points out that Santa Monica's rules rely on Airbnb to regulate itself and keep track of zoning laws that change block to block. It's not clear just how strongly the city will actually enforce these rules. So for the time being, your parents will probably still be in the clear to rent out that backyard teepee by the beach.