New Airbnb rules go into effect for Salem prior to eclipse

New Airbnb rules in Salem before eclipse

Starting Wednesday in Salem, renting out a room in your house for a night or two through companies like Airbnb is going to be a bit like driving a car: You’ll need a license.

That’s because Salem city councilors passed regulations last month that take effect this week.

Ordinance Bill 5-17 sailed through council chambers on June 12, meaning Salem residents can soon apply for licenses to run Airbnbs and similar services in their homes.

Those services let you make money by renting out rooms — and hosts stand to cash in as an August 21 solar eclipse draws travelers to the city.

Renting rooms for the Great American Eclipse

The sun will completely disappear behind the moon for about two minutes during the eclipse, causing darkness to fall over Salem.

Oregon's capital city is smack-dab in the eclipse's "path of totality." So,  if the clouds don't roll in, people here will get an unfettered view of the astronomical event.

"The night before the eclipse will be one of the biggest nights for Airbnb in Salem ever," a spokeswoman for the company said.

On Airbnb, hosts are allowed to advertise their home just for the eclipse, the spokeswoman said. In fact, the company is expecting more than 470 guest arrivals in Salem the night before — a spike from the 20 anticipated the week before the eclipse.

"The eclipse is another example of how Airbnb helps cities welcome an influx of new visitors for big events like the Super Bowl, the Olympics or the NCAA tournament," Laura Spanjian, Northwest Policy Director for Airbnb, said through a spokeswoman.

"Our hosts will help Salem welcome people from all over the country, provide an affordable option for visitors to stay and drive visitor spending dollars to local business located outside of the typical hotel zones," Spanjian said.

Sharing-economy businesses are set to become more prevalent in Salem. Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft launched their services here early last month. Airbnb adds another layer to that economy.

“There is wisdom in creating additional places for people to stay, particularly in advance of the solar eclipse when thousands of visitors will flock to Salem,” Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Nick Williams said in a statement.

“Home-sharing has the capability to expand the economy by creating more options when people come and visit Salem.

"City leadership does, however, need to continue evolving any code for the purpose of ensuring our visitors are safe and our infrastructure is equipped to handle this developing industry," Williams said.

Hosts to pay for city licenses

Aspiring Airbnb hosts must make an investment upfront before the city will license them.

A new license will run you $184.50 on Jan. 1, 2018 — but if you pay for one on Wednesday, you can pick it up for a discounted rate of $147, with the license lasting until the end of this year, according to the city.

You can apply for a license at City Hall's Permit Application Center on Wednesday morning at 555 Liberty St. SE Room 320.

It bears noting that under the new codes, apartment renters will not be able to rent out rooms.

Duplex and single-family home renters can if they have permission from the property owner, which they would submit with their application, City Planner Bryce Bishop said.

The bill that city councilors passed in June updates city codes to reflect what you need to do as a host for short-term rentals here.

Depending on where you live in the city and what you're doing with the rental — for instance, how many rooms you're renting — you may need to go through different city processes.

Ordinance Bill 5-17 clarified what is now a confusing mix regarding the whos and wheres of people essentially running bed and breakfasts in their homes.

In theory, new codes will make it so City Hall is getting its fair share of transient occupancy taxes — which hotels pay, too — and business is generally on the up-and-up.

In the updated codes, you’ll find no advice on which thread count sheets to buy or whether to pony up for faster Internet speeds to impress guests.

Rather, it's about legal requirements — so prepare for a conversation with your home insurance provider, among other things.

New codes will require rental hosts to have liability insurance covering their home’s use as a short-term rental while their city-issued license is effective.

You’ll also have to keep a log of how many people stayed at your house and for how long — that includes dates and the number of days they stayed. You must show which service their stay was booked through.

The codes don’t appear to require you to take names down in this registry, which the city can look at. And there are even more requirements outside of insurance and keeping a guest registry that are outlined in the new codes.

Asked to estimate how many people he expects will apply on Wednesday, City Planner Bishop said it was still unclear. "We're gonna have to find out."

Send questions, comments or news tips to jbach@statesmanjournal.com or 503-399-6714. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMBach.

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