Berkeley renters now required to register short-term rentals by Oct. 31

Xiaoye Yan/Staff
A unit in this building at 2110 Haste St was recently listed as a short-term rental on Airbnb.

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Berkeley residents who provide short-term rentals will now have to register with the city, according to a new ordinance announced on the city’s website Friday.

To be in compliance with the city, hosts of short-term rentals — which include rentals of any portion of a dwelling for lodging of less than 14 consecutive days — must enroll by Oct. 31 through an online application. The ordinance, which was passed by City Council in February, also requires that starting Friday, short-term rental hosts pay a 12 percent transient occupancy tax, along with a 2 percent enforcement fee and a $225.50 annual application fee.

According to Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner Igor Tregub, while drafting the ordinance, Berkeley looked to other cities to determine what would work effectively.

“What we found was registration is really the key — ensuring that the provisions of our ordinance are enforceable,” Tregub said. “The (cities) that didn’t have that provision in place pretty much were left with an ordinance that could not be enforced. It was wonderful language on a piece of paper; it just didn’t have any teeth.”

The ordinance is in part an effort to prevent long-term housing units from being converted into short-term rentals, according to Councilmember Sophie Hahn.

“In a time with a massive housing shortage, we can’t have real rental units pulled off the market to put them into the short-term rental market, which is more lucrative,” Hahn said.

The new regulations also serve as a way to generate revenue for the city. According to Berkeley’s land use planning manager Steve Buckley, the ordinance was in part created to bring in tax revenues from short-term rentals that do not pay the taxes required of hotels.

Airbnb spokesperson Jasmine Mora said in an email that Airbnb has been working with city officials on Berkeley’s short-term rental issue over the past year.

“In Berkeley, we … look forward to continued conversations with the city on implementation of the ordinance that was passed earlier this year,” Mora said in her email. “Many hosts in Berkeley and across the East Bay depend on the Airbnb platform to make ends meet, save for retirement, or pay for their child’s college education.”

Individuals must register with the city regardless of whether the rental is done through an online platform such as Airbnb or HomeAway, or done informally. By enrolling, residents will verify their residence’s compliance with the city’s short-term rental requirements.

According to the ordinance, hosts will also be expected to notify neighbors when they establish a short-term rental, as part of the measure’s effort to protect neighborhoods from potential nuisances associated with short-term rentals. Buckley said some examples of these nuisances could be noise and parking.

For Hahn, the ordinance strikes an important balance between allowing residents to enjoy the advantages of short-term rentals while also securing the continuance of long-term housing and sustaining the character of the city.

“I think anybody can imagine too much of it … could also really change the whole character of neighborhoods,” Hahn said.

By placing greater control on the short-term rental market and limiting the ability to convert long-term units into short-term rentals, Tregub said he hopes the ordinance can help provide housing to families and individuals who need it most.

“I am happy that this is finally going into effect and will have some teeth and I’m hoping that in the midst of a unprecedented housing affordability crisis, this will be one more tool in our toolbox to provide housing opportunities to everybody,” Tregub said.

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.