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Your Guide To Portland’s Draft Rules For Airbnb And Short Term Rentals

OPB | June 4, 2014 1:20 p.m. | Updated: June 25, 2014 1:31 p.m. | Portland

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Perhaps you’ve been eyeing this Portland backyard getaway for your next staycation? Or maybe this oh-so-Portland handcrafted mud hut, which comes complete with access to your host’s permaculture garden and views of the St. Johns Bridge?

These and other getaways that can be booked via Airbnb, VRBO or similar rental sites could be about to cost a little more, thanks to new rules that Portland City Council members are reviewing today. A vote on the proposal, which comes from the city’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, is expected as early as next week. 

Under the new rules, the city plans to collect its 12.5 percent lodging tax on all short-term rentals, including those booked on sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and Craigslist, just as for guests in traditional hotels.

“The lodging tax isn’t changing, and anybody who rents out their house on a nightly basis is subject to it. Part of this is going to be a big education for operators,” said Sandra Woods, supervising planner for the city.

Of course, many people who rent out rooms online haven’t been paying that tax to date. Wood says Airbnb has agreed to help the city collect the tax from its users, because unlike many online booking sites, Airbnb actually serves as a transaction point, collecting money from guests and remitting it to hosts. She says the company is working with the Revenue Bureau to develop a plan to collect and pay taxes on behalf of its users.

There are also new rules coming for short-term rental operators. People who want to rent out one or two bedrooms in their homes will have to pay $180 for a two-year permit. But apartment owners may be out of luck- the draft rules don’t allow short-term rentals of apartment and condo units, due to the city’s fire safety regulations. Several members of the City Council have questioned that restriction, and appear to be considering changing it.

Anyone who rents out three to five bedrooms, whether they use a peer-to-peer site like Airbnb or run a traditional bed and breakfast, will have to go through a conditional use review process and pay between $4,130 and $16,000 for permits.

Regardless of the number of rooms they are renting out, operators will also have to live on the site, though they do not have to be home during all guest visits. All short-term rental operators have to keep a guest log with names, home addresses, and license numbers of guests. The city will require hosts to install smoke detectors in bedrooms that can receive signals from other smoke detectors in the house, so that, for example, a fire in the kitchen would trigger the bedroom smoke detector. And finally, both Airbnb hosts and bed and breakfasts are allowed to serve food and alcohol to their guests.

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