By Don MacGillivray
How well do you know your neighbors? Are they renting out a room or two to visitors from out of town? There are over 250 homeowners doing this in The Southeast Examiner service area.
This is indicative of the dramatic increase in the number of homes being rented informally on a short-term basis (less than 30 days), spurred in large part by internet sites such as AirBnB.com, Home Away.com and other similar businesses
In Portland, Air-BnB has the largest number of listings with 1,302 in 2013 up from only 107 in 2011. Most of these are from hosts renting one or two bedrooms in their home while they live on their property. Others offer all the bedrooms in the house for rent and manage the property remotely.
New amendments to the zoning code are proposed in RICAP #6 (Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Package #6) that allow new bed and breakfast uses that permits renting one to two bedrooms in the house, apartment, or condominium that is the primary residence for the hosts.
The permit process recognizes the smaller-scale nature of these short term rentals by allowing a less expensive, faster process as long as it does not impact the surrounding neighborhood.
Larger bed and breakfast facilities of three or more bedrooms and other features continue to require a normal conditional use review.
Tenancies of less than 30 days are considered a hotel or motel use in a retail sales and service use category that is prohibited in residential zones.
Homes in residential zones can apply for a typical conditional use (CU) approval to allow the establishment of a bed and breakfast facility.
The CU process is expensive, $4,130 to as much as $16,047 if the facility hosts “commercial meetings”. Because of the expense and time involved in obtaining a CU approval, many small-scale short term rentals are operating illegally and are not paying the transient lodging tax by staying “below the radar” of code compliance.
Currently there are 58 such facilities in the Buckman neighborhood, 46 in Richmond, 44 in Sunnyside, 38 in Mt.. Tabor, 31 in HAND, 23 in Kerns, 22 in Montavilla,15 in North Tabor, 14 in South Tabor, and 7 in Laurelhurst.
An added requirement is that hosts’ contact information be given to the surrounding neighbors so they can contact the host if there are concerns with the operation of the bed and breakfast facility.
AirBnB is one of the major facilitators of this business. They maintain a website for people to rent out private rooms, apartments, castles, boats, tree houses, tipis, private islands and other properties and has over 500,000 listings in 33,000 cities, in 192 countries.
Founded in August 2008 and headquartered in San Francisco, the company is privately owned and operated. Users of the site must register and create a personal online profile before using the site. Every property is associated with a host whose profile includes recommendations by other users, reviews by previous guests, as well as a private messaging system.
As of October 2013, AirBnB had served 10 million guests since 2008. AirBnB then expanded to foreign countries and opened international offices in London, Berlin, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Moscow, Dublin, and São Paulo.
The site has expanded into the Asian and Australian markets and 75% of their bookings came from markets outside of the continental United States.
Users are categorized as “hosts” and “guests”; both of which must register. Profiles include details such as guest reviews and shared social connections to build a reputation and trust among the users of this marketplace. Hosts also display listing details including price per night, amenities, house rules, imagery, and information about their neighborhood.
Creating a listing using the site is free and guests are required to message the host directly through the website to ask any questions regarding the property.
Hosts have 100% control over who books their home and when a potential guest puts in a reservation request, the host has at least 24 hours to accept or decline it.
After the guest has checked out, the parties write reviews of one another to build the credibility of each via the website.
HomeAway Inc was founded in 2004, and acquired several other similar businesses consolidating them into a single vacation marketplace. Travelers can freely search HomeAway.com to find a vacation rental and homeowners can pay to advertise their property.
In 2010 the Wall Street Journal named HomeAway one of the top 10 venture-funded companies. The vacation rental and home exchange marketplace is very competitive.
QuickHome, FlipKey, Homelink.org, HomeExchange.com, BeWelcome, Roomorama, Hospitality Club, Travelmob, RatedApartments, and Castlecave all offer variations of vacation rental or temporary home exchange business.
Portland is updating the codes and procedures to accommodate these types of businesses. Since they will be in residential neighborhoods, it would be a good idea for the public to become familiar with the pros and cons of this development. Now is the time to inquire with questions or comments to the City Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.