In January, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser returned to the D.C. Council unsigned Bill 22-92, “Short Term Rental Regulation of 2018”, commonly referred to as the Airbnb Law, but also affecting all short-term rental platforms. The Bill eliminates Airbnb rentals in second homes, limits the number of days a primary residence may be rented to 90 days in a calendar year and requires platforms such as Airbnb to provide detailed monthly reports about the rentals to the city for enforcement purposes. While current regulations limit short-term rentals in residential areas, those restrictions are rarely enforced.
In taking this rare step, Mayor Bowser and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine cited the likelihood that the bill would be overturned in the courts, following a federal court ruling overturning similar legislation in New York City based on its violation of constitutional protections against search and seizure. In both bills, companies who run the services would be required to provide reports to the city, including the identity of hosts and renters, which the court found to be invasive of the company’s and the customers’ privacy. Alternatively, similar legislation has been upheld in California, where San Francisco, like New York and D.C., is facing a housing crisis exacerbated by rental units being taken off the market in favor of more lucrative short-term alternatives.
The result of this action is that DC Residents who use these platforms in order to supplement their income are left in limbo as to the future, and content, of this restrictive legislation. While the Bill, barring a possible legal challenge resulting in an order striking down or delaying the implementation, will still take effect on October 1 after a congressional review, the city may attempt to temper the reporting requirements to lessen the possibility of successful constitutional challenges. However, without these requirements, enforcement of the restrictions would be virtually impossible. Unfortunately, the Bill’s future is unclear. D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson has asked for a review by the council’s general council and he has indicated his intention to push the Bill through as soon as possible.
Until the legislation takes effect, short-term rental providers in the city would be wise to develop a plan of action in the case that either the bill is passed in its current form or in some amended fashion. While the issue of restricting short term rentals will continue to be hotly contested publicly, the imminent consequences of the legislation for landlords is right around the corner, and consultation with a lawyer in order to avoid the penalties associated with the legislation is highly prudent. At Johnson Law Group, you will be met by attorneys who are well versed and experienced in the fields of property and business law and who can help you to understand the proposed changes and how best to prepare for them.