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Airbnb Property Management Baltimore – Dozens of people who host guests in Airbnb-style properties called on the Baltimore City Council on Thursday to amend a bill that would impose new regulations and taxes on short-term rentals that hoteliers say are unfairly exempt from oversight of their businesses.
The hearing pitted the interests of traditional lodges and hotels against those of hosts who are increasingly renting out spare rooms in their homes or even entire properties on online home-sharing platforms.
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Nearly 1,300 hosts who rented out 2,105 apartments in Baltimore last year generated $11.3 million in revenue, not subject to hotel taxes. Hotels paid approximately $30.5 million in taxes in fiscal year 2017.
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The bill, introduced by Councilman Eric Costello and Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, would apply Baltimore’s 9.5 percent hotel tax to short-term rentals and impose licensing requirements on those properties.
Costello said the legislation is needed to ensure neighborhoods don’t become “too transient,” to create a process for the city to quickly remove problem hosts and collect up to $1 million in hotel tax revenue each year from short-term rentals.
Members of the Baltimore Hosts Coalition say they support many of the bill’s provisions but oppose some of its limitations. They want the council to scrap the two-property limit and scrap a provision that would only allow them to rent units for 60 days a year on a property that is not their permanent home.
Coalition members said the restrictions would put them out of business and drive more people out of the struggling city.
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“We are willing to be licensed like businesses, we are willing to pay taxes like businesses, but we must be treated like businesses,” he said. “No one tells Marriott they can only operate 60 nights a year.”
But others said short-term rentals like Indek’s give Airbnb-style properties an edge over hotels and B&Bs. Without the proposed licensing requirements and taxes, short-term rentals can evade the rules that others in the hospitality industry must follow.
“As a small business owner, I don’t think it’s right to be penalized with all these laws while others in the neighborhood don’t have to follow them,” he said. “I’m fine with home sharing. I don’t like that there are companies out there that pretend they’re not doing it. They need to be held accountable.”
The legislation would establish licensing requirements for short-term rentals. If hosts do not comply with city building, fire, health and zoning regulations, city officials can revoke their licenses.
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Smith said her business, Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast, has seen fewer guests in recent months. He said he’s usually 100 percent booked during baseball season. He might say the Orioles’ lackluster season is to blame, he joked, if he hadn’t seen guests driving to nearby Airbnb-style accommodations.
Hosts say short-term rentals will boost tourism in areas of Baltimore outside the Inner Harbor. There are Airbnb-style properties in Hampden, Hollins Market, Patterson Park and other neighborhoods. Many guests are traveling medics, summer interns, and business people attending conventions.
The hosts, who showed solidarity by dressing in matching bright orange shirts, told the council they would direct guests to neighborhood restaurants and more “authentic” Baltimore experiences outside of downtown.
Brigitte Williams is renting out her property on Fulton Avenue in West Baltimore. He said he’s able to bring out-of-town visitors to a neighborhood they don’t normally visit, increasing support for local businesses.
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Ridgely’s Delight homeowner Elizabeth Degi DuBois said short-term rentals in residential areas also create problems for “neighborhood cohesion.”
Her 4-year-old son’s nursery overlooks the short-term rental property next door. Sometimes the space is rented out for bachelor or bachelorette parties that have a guy up late at night.
“When you have people using your house as a hotel, they act like hotel guests, not neighbors,” Degi BuBois said.
Cities across the country are considering how to regulate the growing home-sharing industry. Several are implementing laws similar to Baltimore’s proposal.
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The president of the Maryland Hotel Lodging Association has said curbing commercial Airbnb operators is a top priority for his organization.
In one tense moment during the four-hour hearing, Costello rejected the short-term host’s claim that he was in the pocket of hotel lobbyists.
An Airbnb representative said the San Francisco-based company is open to working with the city. He supports the tax but opposes the 60-day cap and restrictions on licenses.
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Short-term rentals would generate between $587,000 and $1 million annually in hotel tax revenue, according to the city’s recent budget analysis. If the cap and licensing restrictions were removed, the legislation could generate between $1.6 million and $2.2 million. As the author of the fourth VRBO listing in Charleston, S.C., Kevin High was an early adopter of short-term rental services. As a technologist, he also looks for ways to make things more efficient.
Bookfull, which recently launched in Baltimore, is a platform designed to help property managers oversee vacation or short-term rental properties. In an interview, High listed some of the problems they face. Many people want to list vacation homes on multiple sites, but this involves a lot of repetitive work. The property is advertised and ensured that it is not double booked.
Bookfull wants to consolidate all functions related to property rental and accommodation supervision on one platform. According to High, it offers tools that automatically add and update listings across multiple channels.
“Manually, it takes about 45 minutes to make typical changes to one channel,” he said. “…We’ll do it all in minutes.”
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The platform also centralizes calendars and communications with guests about stay specifics and manages payments, High said. If guests have questions, the startup also works with a call center to answer specific queries. The base service is offered for free and the startup makes money through additional tools.
With people listed on home sharing services like Airbnb and VRBO. High said the platform could also offer management on more hotel-oriented sites like Expedia or help property owners. It has access via APIs through about 35 channels. “The reason these companies are offering access to property management systems is because they know this problem exists,” he said. High doesn’t see Bookfull as competing with services that list homes, but rather as offering a way for property managers with larger numbers of properties to make things more efficient.
The company is based in Charleston, S.C. in Baltimore, is the only city where it will initially launch. High is a former resident of the area and said he sees great potential for growth in the short-term rental market, both in the city and throughout Maryland in areas such as Annapolis and Frederick.
“We really have a mindset of targeting one metropolitan area at a time and building a good user base in each area,” he said. Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello explains his bills to regulate and tax Airbnb and similar properties in Baltimore. (Video by Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)
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The Baltimore City Council plans to pass a bill that would impose strict rules on short-term rentals through Airbnb and other sites, sharply limiting people’s ability to rent out anything other than their own homes.
Costello said at a luncheon for council members that the measure could bring in about $800,000 a year, give the city the ability to quickly shut down problem hosts and help make neighborhoods more stable.
“Short-term rentals are essentially temporary hotels that exist in residential areas,” he said. “We have strong neighborhoods in the city, we have neighborhoods on the cusp, and we have weak neighborhoods that we’re trying to highlight. The last thing I think any of us want is to create extremely transient environments in neighborhoods that fit any of these categories.
Airbnb and other platforms started out as a way for people to rent out vacant spaces in their homes, but they’ve also become a booming vacation rental market, creating a new industry of people who own properties solely to rent out through the sites.
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That has angered the hotel and bed and breakfast industry, which says Airbnb hosts are flouting the rules and getting an unfair advantage, but the proposed bill would likely hit the businesses of hundreds of Baltimore Airbnb hosts if it passes.
Amy Rohrer, president of the Maryland Hotel Lodging Association, said reining in for-profit Airbnb operators is a top priority for the industry. Costello said at the luncheon that the group was involved in discussions during the drafting of the bill.
The Maryland Hotel Lodging Association supports a homeowner’s right to use Airbnb, but commercial real estate investors should not be allowed to make significant profits by buying single and multi-family homes and renting them year-round on sites like Airbnb without proper oversight. Roher said in a statement.
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