What You Need to Know About the Latest Airbnb Regulations

A primer on how current home-sharing rules affect you.

U.S. News & World Report

What You Need to Know About the Latest Airbnb Regulations

Woman leaving entrance door carrying two suitcases, low section

What do current home-sharing restrictions mean for you?(Getty Images)

With high-profile lawsuits in New York City, San Francisco, Barcelona and Berlin, it's no secret that Airbnb has faced resistance from local governments across the globe. In October, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that imposes fines up to $7,500 for hosts who advertise illegal short-term rentals for multiple-unit dwellings for less than 30 days on alternative accommodation platforms, prompting Airbnb to file a lawsuit. Now, the state of New York has halted enforcing the new piece of legislation, as Airbnb and city regulators are striving to find a compromise on the recent restriction.

With tighter regulations and ever-shifting guidelines, chances are, if you're a prospective renter, you're concerned about current home-sharing restrictions and what they might mean for you. While some rules are clear-cut, others are complex and elusive, begging more questions: Is there a cap on the number of nights I can rent? Are there limits to the types of units I can rent? How can I ensure a comfortable experience using a peer-to-peer platform for the first time? To help you understand the current measures in place, U.S. News tapped industry experts to share their strategies for a safe and secure rental experience, along with tips for navigating the change – and potential pushback – ahead.

Where Regulations Affect Hosts

Hosts will face the greatest hurdles in light of the new restrictions, but it's important for travelers to understand how the brewing battle in top markets, including San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Florida, could impact their stay. In New York, the law would allow the city to fine people for advertising illegal short-term listings on Airbnb and similar alternative accommodation sites, but "this doesn't necessarily mean the people of New York will stop listing their properties for rent," explains Hank Freid, CEO of Impulsive Group, a New York-based hospitality company specializing in boutique hotels. "For travelers visiting New York who still prefer to stay in an Airbnb, they will not be penalized, only the property owner will face the penalty, as travelers really aren't at fault, so they will likely still have options as far as alternative accommodations," Freid adds.

"The rules for home sharing vary city by city, sometimes block by block," explains Nick Papas, a spokesperson for Airbnb. In San Francisco, for instance, there's a proposed piece of legislation that would require hosts to register their homes and apartment units. Also, currently hosts can rent their homes for up to 90 days annually, but the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is fighting for a 60-day restriction for landlords. Other cities are following suit by imposing strict fines. "In Florida, the penalty varies between the municipalities but can range up to $30,000 for first-time offenders. In San Francisco, all hosts must register with the city or face fines of up to $1,000 per day," Freid explains. "Similar laws requiring property owners to register with the local municipalities are taking effect in cities across the U.S.," Freid adds.

While the long-term implications of the new rules are still shaking out, it's important to keep in mind that "Airbnb is working with local jurisdictions to ensure customers and their desired travel plans are not negatively impacted by new regulations," says Ravneet Bhandari, travel industry expert and CEO at hotel revenue management company LodgIQ. "In fact, laws being enacted are in many cases designed to specifically protect consumer safety, a responsible and logical approach, as well as important for the health of Airbnb as a company,” Bhandari adds.

As Papas puts it: "We are very eager to work with cities on clear, fair rules."

How Travelers Are Impacted by the Rules

The new rules prohibiting visitors from renting multiple-unit buildings in New York City for 30 days or less is not a major concern for travelers, says Josh King, chief legal officer with online legal marketplace Avvo. The only immediate concern for travelers is that a host could get cold feet and break their rental agreement, he says. "You run the risk as these regulations go into effect that hosts may decide or determine that they're violating the law," he explains, resulting in canceling your upcoming reservation. "Whether the unit is technically violating municipal or state regulation is not going to float to visitors," he adds. Freid echoes similar sentiments: "With the local laws that are taking effect, only the property owners are at fault and can be penalized, not the traveler."

How to Ensure a Safe and Smooth Experience Using the Platform

Renters need to do their homework to maximize safety and ensure a satisfactory experience. "Travelers should do research before just booking," Freid says, suggesting Googling the owner, comparing reviews and analyzing the condition of the property. "Travelers must dedicate time and effort into knowing what they are renting by fully researching the property and its owner," he adds.

Papas suggests reading reviews and talking to your hosts, and he specifically points out that the site's secure messaging tool is designed to optimize safety. Because guests can only leave reviews if they've stayed at a listing, they are authentic, he adds.

King also recommends comparing user reviews and using filter options to ensure you select a safe neighborhood and a unit with security features that matter to you. Also, keep in mind, you can minimize risks by confirming the host's phone number, requesting references and reviewing social networks for verified users. You should also review the host's cancellation policy before you file a reservation request. Remember, policies vary from host to host, Papas explains. "Some hosts may decide that their unit is only available for a certain number of nights," he says. Finally, Papas recommends that prospective renters ask hosts about local rules or regulations or check out Airbnb's responsible hosting page for additional details.

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