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To push back on short-term rental boom, Seattle adds new Airbnb regulations

The Seattle City Council followed through Monday on a second piece of legislation to further regulate the short term rental market in the city and raise new funding from the industry.

Council members approved a package of rules that will limit owners to only two units at a time on services like Airbnb. The new rules will also require the platform companies including Airbnb and Expedia to pay for a permit to operate in Seattle. The approved legislation calls on the city to study how much the platform companies should be charged to help pay for regulation and enforcement of the industry.

Officials said the goal of the regulations is to “balance the economic opportunity created by short-term rentals with the need to maintain supply of long-term rental housing stock available at a range of prices.”

According to a policy paper put out by Tim Burgess’s office when the discussion over regulation first heated up, short-term rentals on Airbnb have exacerbated the city’s housing crisis and regulating short-term and vacation rentals was one of the recommendations to come out of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee. Meanwhile,Seattle’s densest neighborhoods, including Capitol Hill, tend to be the most saturated with short-term rentals. And, according to, more than a third of Airbnb listings on Capitol Hill are from hosts who have multiple listings.

In November, the council approved a tax on operators offering short-term rental properties for stays of 29 days or less. The tax of $14 per night for homes and $8 per night for rooms would raise more than $7 million per year. State lawmakers have also targeted the industry for possible taxation. A provision in the Seattle tax legislation puts the city in position to remove its so-called Airbnb tax — If a statewide tax will provide similar funding opportunities.

The new regulations joining the tax include a zone in downtown that will allow existing hosts to offer up to three units. The new rules are slated to be in effect starting in 2019.

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4 thoughts on “To push back on short-term rental boom, Seattle adds new Airbnb regulations

  1. This is a much-needed change in the regulations, but I regret that current operators in some areas are “grandfathered” and can still rent more units. Everyone should have to play by the same rules.

    • If you read the doc below, you will see that a couple of large operators threatened a law suit unless them were grandfathered in. It’s unclear if the exemption that finally passed helps the cap hill unit listed (Roy st.) but it shows the intent and the level of lobbying that went on here.

      Left to their own devices, such operators would happily gobble up entire buildings for their profiteering. Pity people who live next door.

      The owner of the Roy St complex lives in a nice $2m house near volunteer park. imguess you can never have too much money…

  2. It seems some of the local operators of Airbnb hotels have been trying to pressure the council to give them a waiver for their cap hill units :

    The Roy St apodment has 32 units, most of which are on Airbnb. Assume that a 200sq ft unit goes at $800 / month, or Airbnb it would do $2-$3k month. Multiply by 30 units and you see why this is a big business for some and drives out affordability.

    Strangley the states hotel laws don’t seem to have been applied, even though any building with more than 3 short term rentals should be subject to them

    • The behavior of these “hosts” is exactly why some sort of rules were needed. VRBO and others were around long before airbnb and managed to coexist with few issues. The original concept of airbnb was fine but what it has become is not.

      Enforcement is a whole different story. Paris is their biggest market and as of December 1st all hosts were supposed to be registered. Out of 65,000 listings only 11,000 have registered. Needless to say Paris is pissed. Same story in most other cities that airbnb operates in. They beg to be legalized and taxed and then do whatever they please anyway.

      One good thing is that the City will finally know WHO these people are by name. As a former small business owner I can tell you that there is nothing more “fun” than an audit. I hope all airbnb hosts get the pleasure of one. They can go back 5 years I believe. Enjoy!