Mayor Murray and Councilmember Burgess Propose New Rules for Short-term Rentals.

Seattle City Council considers new rules for short-term rentals through Airbnb, VRBO and other online platforms.

(June 2, 2016) Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Tim Burgess this week announced a proposal to prevent long-term rental units from being converted to short-term rentals, while still providing residents the ability to earn additional income by renting out their homes.

The measure focuses on commercial operators who use platforms, such as Airbnb and VRBO, to rent multiple properties year-round.

If passed, approximately 80 percent of existing short-term rentals in Seattle would see no new regulations.  Any property would be allowed to be provided as a short-term rental for up to 90 nights in a 12-month period. Only properties that are the primary residence of the short-term rental operator would be allowed to rent past the 90 night threshold. The primary residency requirement would curtail the growing year-round commercial operation of these platforms.

The primary goal of the ordinance is to maintain supply of long-term rental housing stock available at a range of prices while balancing the economic opportunity created by short term rentals. Its secondary goals, according to a one-page fact sheet released by the mayor, are to ensure a level playing field for individuals and companies in the short-term rental market and to protect the rights and safety of owners, guests and neighbors of these units.

“Property owners are shifting hundreds of homes from the long-term residential market to short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, and in doing so dangerously reduce our housing supply,” said Councilmember Burgess, chair of the Council’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee. “At the same time, Seattle homeowners offering short-term rentals in their own homes earn valuable supplemental income. These proposed regulations focus narrowly on the commercial operators that take advantage of home-sharing platforms to exacerbate our housing crisis.”

Consistent with current city requirements, all short-term rental operators within the City of Seattle must already secure a city business license tax certificate and pay all applicable taxes.  Under the proposed rules, operators renting their primary residence for more than 90 nights will be required to obtain an additional regulatory license. This license will require proof that the unit being rented is the operator’s primary residence, proof of liability insurance that covers the short-term rental use, a local contact number for guests, a signed declaration that the unit meets building and life safety codes, and basic safety information posted for guests in the unit.

The proposal would better protect the rights and safety of owners, guests and neighbors of these short-term rental units by shutting down illegal hotels.

Under the proposed regulations, all short-term rental platform companies will also need to obtain a Seattle license and report limited data on their operators on a quarterly basis to make the enforcement of the proposed law possible. The FAQ released with the proposal states that traditional bed and breakfasts will be treated similarly to short term rentals.

More information on the proposals provided by the City can be found here:

The Seattle City Council will first consider these proposals at a meeting of the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. A vote on the proposal is tentatively scheduled for July.

The WLA/WRA Government Affairs team is closely watching developments and will keep you informed as this process moves forward. You can contact with any questions.


In the News

Seattle may slap new rules on Airbnb to ease the rental crunch (Seattle Times, May 31, 2016)

Airbnb and VRBO raise concerns with Seattle’s proposed short-term rental regulations (Geekwire, June 1, 2016)

Seattle lawmakers propose rules to curb Airbnb and improve housing affordability (Geekwire, June 1, 2016)

Seattle could set limits for Airbnb hosts (KUOW, ran on air June 1 and 2, 2016)