It may not be possible to have a neutral opinion on Air BnB, the once quirky 2008 startup that permitted travelers to couch-surf the world over. In a few short years, the short term rental market has bloomed, with homeowners using the extra income to claw themselves out of the recession and apartment dwellers to keep up with rising rents. The dark side has been the eviction of long term tenants in order to convert entire buildings to short-term rentals, the removal of affordable housing units from the market, rowdy renters, and the shortfall in city revenues caused by BnB-lords not paying taxes and fees to the city or county as a typical hotel, bed and breakfast, or hostel is required to do. Nor are many of them conforming to the rules and regulations that cover such businesses.

Miami Landlords Suffer Hefty Penalties

The city of Miami recently imposed fines of $20,000 for violators – which with few exceptions includes the entirety of Miami Beach. For some super BnB-lords, the risk is worth the reward of pocketing thousands of dollars per month in peak season or around high-capacity events. In other cities such as New York, London, and Amsterdam the service is on the ropes as well. Even private regulations are in the offing as home-owners associations, tenants’ associations, and condominium boards take aim at either enacting CR&Rs prohibiting transient, less-than-30 day rentals or enforcing those already on the books. Locally, other municipalities and even counties are trying to strike the right balance between those tourist dollars flowing into the community and the needs of people who live there.

Getting Your Air BnB Rental Right

In order to “get right” with the city, you’re going to need to do some work, and in some cases you may not be able to get right. Here’s how to start moving toward legality.

  1. Check out the zoning regulations in your area and see if you can operate as a bed and breakfast, short-term rental, or other type of hostelry.
  2. Apply for a business license, then speak with an insurance agent about what kind of coverage you will need to have in order to cover your property, your guests, and shield you from liability losses.
  3. Bring your unit up to code with respect to habitability, safety, ADA access, maintenance, and health codes.
  4. Pay your tourist taxes to the county and state. If you are renting out your unit for less than six months, you must pay.

Sharing is Caring

The sharing economy is a business, and businesses are in need to regulation – not to punish the good actors in business, but to make sure that the invariable bad apple doesn’t taint the entire barrel. Regulations are a shared agreement to professional codes and standards that protect business owners and their clients alike. Paying taxes and fees help to keep this system afloat and working for everyone. Talk to you insurance agent – a licensed and regulated profession – about getting your short-term rental into compliance and under comprehensive coverage.