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Airbnb cheers as Idaho bill to limit local regulation of its hosts’ homes becomes law

Tresaure Valley resident Robert Hergenrother in a Boise house that in-laws from California rented through Airbnb in 2015 as an alternative to staying in a hotel.
Tresaure Valley resident Robert Hergenrother in a Boise house that in-laws from California rented through Airbnb in 2015 as an alternative to staying in a hotel. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Gov. Butch Otter has signed a bill aimed at curbing local governments’ efforts to regulate homeowners who rent their homes through Airbnb or similar services.

Otter last week signed the Short-term Rental and Vacation Rental Act, which ensures homeowners’ rights to rent their properties but still allows local regulation when “the public health, safety and welfare” are at stake. The bill passed the House 63-5 with two absentions and passed the Senate 35-0.

“This bill is a major win for the 2,000 Idahoans, the vast majority of whom are women and seniors, welcoming visitors to their state,” Jasmine Mora, a spokeswoman for Airbnb, said in a statement. “This legislation takes a balanced approach to ensuring families continue to have a variety of travel options while enabling cities to adopt reasonable regulations.”

The bill requires that short-term or vacation rentals retain residential zoning and bars any ordinances that have the “express or practical effect of prohibiting” the rentals.

Airbnb rentals have caused some problems. The city of Rexburg sent letters in March to homeowners in low-density residential neighborhoods telling them to stop renting after neighbors complained about a party by guests at one home, the Standard Journal in Rexburg reported.

City attorney Steve Zollinger told the newspaper the new law’s health, safety and welfare exception still allows Rexburg to deem rentals in low-density zones illegal. Rexburg is making an exception to its ban for two weeks in August when a solar eclipse is expected to draw an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 visitors to the city.

The new law also requires that short-term rental marketplaces collect and remit state and local taxes. Airbnb started doing that in December. In Boise, Airbnb collects the 6 percent Idaho sales tax, the 2 percent Idaho travel and convention tax, and the 5 percent Greater Boise Auditorium District hotel room tax.

Airbnb said its Idaho hosts earned $11.6 million last year while serving 95,000 visitors. A typical host earns $4,800 a year from Airbnb rentals, the company said.

David Staats: 208-377-6417, @DavidStaats

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