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New effort underway to regulate short-term home rentals in St. Louis

New effort underway to regulate short-term home rentals in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS — A renewed effort to get a regulatory handle on short-term home rentals in the city, increasingly offered in recent years on websites such as Airbnb, will be launched Friday at the Board of Aldermen.

“Our residents have reached out to us to know that some level of … regulation makes sense,” said Alderman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, the lead sponsor.

The legislation would require the estimated 1,000 such properties in the city to apply for annual permits and adhere to specific health, safety and other regulations.

The regulations would be devised by the city building commissioner’s office with advice from a special task force on the issue. Ingrassia said she wants aldermen to attach to the bill some basic policies they want the regulations to follow.

Ingrassia said her two bills would preserve property owners’ ability to make some extra money by renting out rooms to travelers but also address “nuisance issues” which have irritated neighboring residents from time to time.

Among them, she said, are “loud parties at all times of night,” refuse and parking problems. She also said occasional crime tied to such operations can leave “people not feeling safe in their own neighborhoods.”

For the most part, Ingrassia said, such problems occur at homes or apartments offered as short-term rentals by people who don’t live there themselves or lack on-premises representatives.

The legislation, she said, would allow the city to revoke permits from operators who aren’t responsive to city complaints.

The bills also would require city inspections every two years of most short-term units offered for rental without a resident owner or on-premise designee.

Resident-run rentals or those with designees present would need inspections only when ownership changes.

The legislation would cover any building with up to five sleeping rooms available for rental for up to 31 consecutive nights. Among exceptions are hotels, motels and treatment facilities.

The legislation also would allow nonresident-run facilities in many areas to continue operating only after winning city approval following a public hearing at which neighbors could raise concerns.

Hearings also would be required for new nonresident-run facilities proposed in the same neighborhoods.

Ingrassia said the legislation is an outgrowth of work she and some other aldermen began two years ago on the issue, which included public forums and meetings with Airbnb and hotel and tourism industry representatives.

She said the bills also aim to level the playing field with longer-established, locally-owned bed and breakfasts required by city for years to go through a detailed process to get up and running.

Those establishments would be treated the same way as the short-term rental facilities under the bills, she said.

Meanwhile, City Assessor Michael Dauphin last year began assessing as commercial properties about 250 short-term rental properties that are not owner-occupied and formerly were regarded as residential.

Because residential property is assessed at 19% of market value and commercial at 32%, that resulted in big increases in tax bills for such properties.

Ingrassia said the policy attachment she plans to tack on to her bills would require short-term rental owners to pay relevant local and state lodging taxes. She said that, however, might require a public vote.

She noted that Airbnb already had entered into agreements with the city and state to collect local and state taxes on behalf of households listing spaces for booking.

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