SANTA MONICA – A series of lawsuits have been filed by home rental host AirBNB in an attempt to support the rights of its home rental users.
AirBNB has filed a number of lawsuits against home-sharing ordinances that have cropped up across the country, most notably in San Francisco and Santa Monica. That's where the first violator of the rental regulation occurred with Scott Shatford, an AirBNB user. Shatford was fined $4,000 for his short-term vacation rentals that violate Santa Monica’s home-sharing ordinance prohibiting vacation rentals for 30 days or less at a permanent residential occupancy.
Shatford, who has written a book about how to make money with AirBNB rentals and is vocal in the media about the regulations against AirBNA, said he felt like he was targeted by the city.
“It was a little bit of a witch hunt for me in particular because I’m a little bit vocal and a little bit public in the media about AirBNB regulation and the enforcement of that regulation,” Shatford told the Northern California Record. “Obviously they went after me to make an example of me, but I still believe that AirBNB regulation is not that enforceable.”
AirBNB is becoming increasingly subject to regulations prohibiting vacation rentals or requiring licensing. One of the major factors cities cite when enacting home-sharing laws is zoning. Areas that were zoned for residential use are seeing home rentals being used for commercial use, which Tim Iglesias, professor at the University of San Francisco, told the Northern California Record can pose potential problems.
“The idea that AirBNB is bringing in transient residents to what are oftentimes permanent residences is disruptive,” Iglesias told the Northern California Record. “There have been cases of AirBNB hosts that the rooms weren’t really good for health and safety, and people were injured in these rentals. There are problems with people coming in and having parties and bothering the neighbors. It’s parking issues and extra cars that wouldn’t normally be there. Sometimes the disruption to other neighbors rises to the level of nuisance.”
Beyond zoning issues, Iglesias said these rentals are changing the landscape and supply of available housing in cities.
“They’re being rented at a much different rate and only for a short period of time,” he said. “It doesn’t allow people to live where they have a job.”
While Shatford has stopped renting in Santa Monica and relocated to Denver, he doesn’t think a $4,000 fine will be enough to stop owners of vacation rentals because of the amount of money they can make through AirBNB renting.
“It’s minimal money in terms of what people are earning on a monthly basis on AirBNB,” he said. “I don’t think a $4,000 fine is stopping anybody from running a large-scale operation on AirBNB.”
With litigation pending globally for AirBNB, supporters say the company has the resources to fight city ordinances.
“They're fighting this battle in many places,” Iglesias said. “I think they’re not even close to seeing the end of what’s going to happen. It really cuts deep into their business. They have a lot to lose and they need to figure this out.”