PORTLAND, Ore. -- A lot of Portlanders renting their homes on popular sites like Airbnb say city staff are pushing their luck.
Now the city is cracking down, and fines for renting out your pad without a permit are going up.
Ross Caron, spokesman for the Bureau of Development Services, said the main motivation in raising fines came from a study done by the city
“It showed that there are about 3,000 people operating accessory short-term rentals in the city of Portland, that would have required this permit,” he said. “And we only had approximately 650 people that applied for permits. So, that showed us that people weren't utilizing this, and part of the reason, we believe, is that the penalty for not doing that wasn't high enough.”
So just how high will they go?
Currently, fines for operating without a permit, as well as breaking other short-term rental rules, range from roughly $700 to $1,400.
Caron said Thursday some Portlanders has scoffed at that amount, calling it “the cost of doing business.”
So, late next month, the city will raise fines to between $1,000 and $5,000.
They’ll also eliminate the 30-day warning period, during which a homeowner violating city ordinances can straighten out the issue and avoid the fine.
In a news release on the issue staff wrote, “BDS has received increased complaints regarding properties operating without the legally required ASTR permit, as well as complaints regarding properties with issued ASTR permits. Complaints include allegations that some ASTR operations are renting out more bedrooms than allowed by permit, allowing more than 5 overnight guests, or operating the business without a primary long-term resident at the property.”
Sarah Bott isn’t surprised.
“I have a lot of friends who, perhaps, are curious about opening up a room on Airbnb, and I say ‘Get a permit. Very first thing. Get a permit,’” she said.
Bott rents two rooms out of her Northeast Portland home, dubbed the Woodlawn Guesthouse.
She says marketing is a major part of her online presence.
Among her selling points, she lists her home’s “Harry Potter room," her pot-friendly 420 patio and her city-issued permit, which means inspectors have checked out her home and agree it’s safe for guests.
“Everyone that rents a room in my house, they know the smoke detector works, there's an egress window, a safe way to get out of the house,” she said. “That makes me feel a lot better.”
Airbnb spokesperson Laura Rillos provided the following statement via email:
The vast majority of our hosts are good neighbors who are sharing space in their own homes. We expect all of our hosts to follow local laws and have invested significant resources into helping them register, but have heard from many discouraged hosts that the city's registration process is too complicated, which is why we remain willing to work with the city to find a better way of regulating short-term rentals and increasing compliance.
The new fine system goes into effect March 31.