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January 2018

Seattle approves new regulations for vacation rentals

In a move to boost the supply of affordable housing, the Seattle City Council approved regulations to limit the number of short-term rentals a property owner can operate in the city. A short term rental is defined as 30 days or less. The new rules culminated a two-year process and are expected to generate as many as 700 units for longer-tem rentals.

Seattle has nearly 4,200 listings on Airbnb alone, according to Puget Sound Sage, a not-for-profit organization focused on serving low-income people, communities of color, immigrants and refugees in the Puget Sound region. Without the new regulations the organization estimates 1,600 long-term units would have been converted into short-term rentals in the next three years.

Starting January 1, 2019, Airbnb and other hosts of short-term rentals will be required to obtain special licenses and pay new taxes. Operators of such rentals will be limited to two dwelling units each (with some exemptions for current hosts) and pay a tax of $14 per night if they rent the entire unit or $8 per night if only part of their unit is rented. Additionally, Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and other short-term rental firms will need to obtain a special "platform license" to facilitate bookings in Seattle.

Seattle King County REALTORS® believes that the new city of Seattle regulations should not apply to short term rentals between parties to a real estate purchase and sale agreement. In those cases, the property owner is not in the business of short term rentals and may never rent the property again. Additionally, there is no impact on housing inventory and no consumer protection issue for the public. Because this ordinance does not become effective until January 1, 2019, Seattle King County REALTORS® will work to resolve this issue.

Along with adding inventory for more of Seattle's long-term residents, the new regulations are expected to generate up to $7 million annually in revenue.

Airbnb worked with the council to develop the regulations. A company official described the new requirements as "a model regulatory framework" that will enable hosts to "continue to share their homes and earn extra money."