AirBnb

D.C. Mayor Says New Airbnb Regs Are Unconstitutional, But She Won't Veto Them

The most remarkable thing about the new rules: Hotel lobbyists managed to convince the city council to give up $100 million in tax revenue.

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Tom Williams/Roll Call/Newscom

The mayor of Washington, D.C., says new regulations that severely limit short-term rentals in the nation's capital are likely unconstitutional—but she's going to let them become law anyway.

In a letter to the city council sent this week, Mayor Muriel Bowser raises a number of objections to the city's new rules for Airbnb and other short-term rentals. The bill passed in November will harm D.C. residents who use rental income to help pay mortgages, will harm the city's bottom line by eliminating more than $100 million in expected tax revenue over the next four years, and will likely face lawsuits challenging its constitutionality, Bowser notes.

"I believe that Council could have struck a better balance between these legitimate interests," Bowser writes. "I am concerned about the impact on our homeowners and visitors."

The new regulations allow D.C. residents to rent out spare bedrooms or basements via platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway, but the rules limit those rentals to a maximum of 90 days per year. They also ban all rentals of secondary homes—that is, homes that are not occupied by the landlord listing them.

The biggest legal question about the bill relates to a record-keeping requirement imposed on all short-term rental platforms operating in the city. To help D.C. enforce the rules, they will be required to turn over data about hosts and guests to the government. A similar provision in New York City was overturned earlier this month by a federal judge who ruled that it violates the Fourth Amendment.

The most remarkable thing about the new regulations is that hotel lobbyists managed to convince the city council to vote for having less tax money to spend. As Bowser points out in her letter, the loss of some short-term rentals will cost the city an estimated $21 million in tax revenue this year and more than $100 million over the next four years, according to the city's Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

Any one of those concerns might be enough to justify vetoing the bill. But Bowser merely returned the legislation to the city council unsigned—a move that allows the bill to become law without the mayor's approval.

The battle over short-term rentals in the city pits powerful hotel chains that see Airbnb as unwanted competition against residents who make a little extra cash by offering their extra bedrooms and second homes to tourists. Writing in The Washington Post in October, just before the city council voted on the new rules, D.C. resident and Aribnb host Rashida Mims claimed the hotel industry was trying to "thwart any attempt to offer an alternative to staying at a hotel to protect its profits and will work to cut off D.C. residents from earning extra income through our homes to do that."

It's not as if hotels in D.C. need protection. Both the supply of and demand for hotel rooms in D.C. are growing, according to an August report from BisNow, which tracks commercial real estate. More than 3,000 hotel rooms are under construction in the D.C. area and another 6,000 are in planning. Clearly, investors are not worried about the long-term viability of the market.

Because this is Washington, Congress will have the final say. Now that Bowser has returned the bill to the city council, it will be presented to Congress for a 30-day review period. If not blocked by federal lawmakers, the new rules will take effect on October 1.

What good is executive power if it's not used to stop bad laws? Bowser is right to raise objections to the city's new Airnb regs, but action would speak far louder than words.

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  1. So much of what governments like this do are illegitimate and unconstitutional.

  2. And to think that the Framers were naive enough to expect that one of the duties of a President was to rein in excessive Congressional urges by being the voice of dispassionate reason and vetoing unconstitutional laws!

    1. Too bad that in this case we’re talking about a mayor. I’m also pretty sure none of the framers thought anyone in government would be dispassionate or reasonable.

      1. Reading comprehension and history fail. President or mayor, same thing: one of the purposes of the veto was to rein in unconstitutional laws.

        1. I think you’ve managed to get the President and the Supreme Court confused somehow. The entire reason for separation of powers is notably there because the framers assumed that each branch would jealously guard it’s powers because men are by nature not dispassionate or reasonable.

          1. Well what on Earth could the Supreme Court have to do with this. We now know (from congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez) that there are three branches of government, the President, the Senate, and the Congress. So, the court just doesn’t have anything to do with, huh? LOL

          2. You realize that, in the same way the President is the executive of the Federal government, a mayor is the executive of a town or city, right?

            It’s the same principle, in microcosm.

            And, no, the “entire reason for separation of powers” is not “because the framers assumed that each branch would jealously guard it’s powers”, that’s merely part of why/how it’s supposed to work. If the powers didn’t need to be separate in the first place, then why would it matter if they were “jealously guarded”?

            Think, man, think!

          3. Next you’ll be saying reporters aren’t objective, religious leaders aren’t selfless, and all public employees aren’t there to serve the public.

            Shame on you! You need a top man to tell you what to think ASAP!

  3. Devastating for people who own short-term rentals at the moment, and will probably have a significant short-term impact on real-estate values.

    The biggest concern, though, is that all manner of other businesses could be bankrupted at a moment’s notice by precedents like this. How can an economy function under such uncertainty?

    1. Stop bringing up Trump and his tariffs all the time! STOP!!!! Why is EVERYTHING about Trump? There’s no uncertainty with Trump. He’s just carrying out his campaign promises.

      WHY IS EVERYTHING ABOUT TRUMP?!?!!?!?!

      1. Everyone knows our prior Presidents did nothing that could be economically destructive, like say starting us down the path of nationalizing a huge percentage of our GDP. What could go wrong? Not to say that tariffs are a good thing, but it’s probably less destructive than a government takeover of the healthcare industry in both the short and long term.

        Say, how many businesses have folded because of the tariffs anyway?

        1. “Say, how many businesses have folded because of the tariffs anyway?”

          Tariffs are an operating cost and so factored into the cost of business. Increasing the cost of business typically does’t drive firms out of business as a first-order effect, but it does increase prices and/or decrease employment.

          Think, man, think!

          1. It’s only going to significantly affect the agricultural or manufacturing industry (if it involves raw materials). Nations slap tariffs on imports all the time, and that in itself will not result in massive closure of business.

            Tariffs are bad for growth, but the practical effect of the current trade war is higher prices on toaster, clothes, cans of beer, etc. There are so many choices that a typical American consumer will be find options that suits them. Theoretically they can buy domestic products unaffected by tariffs.

            Once the trade war escalates to implementation of blockades then we’ll be in trouble.

      2. “WHY IS EVERYTHING ABOUT TRUMP?!?!!?!?!”

        He likes it that way.

  4. But Bowser merely returned the legislation to the city council unsigned?a move that allows the bill to become law without the mayor’s approval.

    Maybe she thought sending it back without a signature just canceled it.

    1. I’m still at a loss for why you decided to come back. It can’t be to post pedestrian shit like that can it?

  5. Hotels pay more in bribes than homeowners. Of COURSE the city council is going to try to do this.

    -jcr

    1. Nailed it. Councilpersons don’t get tax dollars, but they do get crony payoffs.

    2. Hotels might also have some interesting videos of said council members.

  6. “I think this law is unconstitutional and I have serious concerns. Oh well. Not my problem”

    – Mayor of DC

    1. At least she’s honest?

      1. There is a certain degree of refreshing honesty here. It’s a tacit admission that, in DC anyway, politics has nothing to do with justice, good sense, or the Constitution. Those are concerns, but they are not concerns which impinge upon the legislative process.

  7. “The most remarkable thing about the new rules: Hotel lobbyists managed to convince the city council to give up $100 million in tax revenue.”

    Not remarkable at all. Tax revenue, which you have to appear to be spending on the people, does not equate to campaign contributions and side deals.

    1. Don’t forget homeowners don’t invite them to the construction sites for the ceremonial first dig. Politicians love wearing hard hats and pretending they are construction workers.

      1. So Airbnb just needs to come up with a way to work in political photo-ops, eh? Good thinking.

  8. “The Congress shall have the Power… To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States”.

    1. That isn’t a pass to violate the Constitution, nor is it a pass to be completely immoral — though no government has ever need authorization to be what it is.

  9. Aren’t you glad the mayor won’t veto the new Airbnb regs?
    Otherwise she would upholding her oath to defend the US Constitution, and who wants that?

  10. About halfway through, there are several claims about why this “Airbnb law” might be unwise, but approximately 0 claims about how it is unconstitutional. Did the DC council slip in a provision requiring Airbnb hosts to quarter soldiers at their own expense?

    1. OK, our village idiot returns.
      Just for starters, it constitutes a ‘taking’, but I won’t waste time trying to explain that. Go back to your swing.

      1. “our village idiot returns.”

        Welcome back.

        “Just for starters, it constitutes a ‘taking”

        Ah. One of those “takings” where nothing is taken. Right-o.

        1. “One of those “takings” where nothing is taken.”

          Except for, literally, the portion of their business over 90 days per year. So it quite literally “takes” >75% of the earning potential from Airbnbers.

          What is with people like you, anyway? You’ve got a clearly bad law catering solely to special interest, where members of the government itself question its Constitutionality, and your default response to engage in apologia for the law?

          Are you really that deeply shitty a person?

          1. “Are you really that deeply shitty a person?”
            Yes, this shitbag slaver shows up now and then with some equally low-IQ comment.
            Pretty sure it’s one of the Hihncrowd, since it is so stupid, but it could be just a fucking ignoramus on its own.

        2. James Pollock|1.17.19 @ 8:26PM|#
          “Ah. One of those “takings” where nothing is taken. Right-o.”

          Village idiot seems incapable of understanding the very clear concept of “takings”.
          Fuck off, village idiot.

  11. “The mayor of Washington, D.C., says new regulations that severely limit short-term rentals in the nation’s capital are likely unconstitutional?but she’s going to let them become law anyway.”

    Anyone want to guess whether she is a Democrat or a Republican?

    It’s such a mystery.

    1. Only because it’s DC government. Republicans have been ignoring the pesky precedent set by the 18th and 21st amendments by imposing prohibition on the states my entire lifetime, and then some.

      Not that it matters anyhow. It’s not as though a Republican politician would suddenly be a deeply moral person completely immune to cronyism. The fact that you would even imply this demonstrates the utter delusion of your partisan bias.

  12. “The mayor of Washington, D.C., says new regulations that severely limit short-term rentals in the nation’s capital are likely unconstitutional?but she’s going to let them become law anyway.”

    Anyone want to guess whether she is a Democrat or a Republican?

    It’s such a mystery.

  13. “The mayor of Washington, D.C., says new regulations that severely limit short-term rentals in the nation’s capital are likely unconstitutional?but she’s going to let them become law anyway.”

    Anyone want to guess whether she is a Democrat or a Republican?

    It’s such a mystery.

    1. Squirrels

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  15. Airbnb owners don’t have to hire (I’m assuming) maids and bellhops. Construction workers have to build new hotels, and etc etc.

    Any sort of business arrangement that allows for autonomy of some kind will result in the middlemen losing out. Imagine if you were in charge of production, location, delivery, etc.

    The city may lose out in tax revenue by ruling against airbnb, but the politicians might keep the votes from various vested interests.

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