Running a great Airbnb is hard-ass work, especially if you have to dream up gimmicks involving Taco Bell and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and put up with all the Airbnb horror stories guests can bring with them. And one more thing: serious criminal charges the company can't exactly help you fight, says a new report from Quartz.
"I expected fines," Scott Shatford of Santa Monica admits. "I really wasn’t expecting them to start to make criminals out of people that were just trying to make a living." Earlier this year, he became one of the first people in the country convicted of illegally renting out short-term Airbnb units. After making about $60,000 a year off several properties, he had to cease all operations and pay the city $3,500 in penalties, with a two-year probation. Shatford wound up relocating to Denver.
"It was my main job, and a well-paying job," he says now. Since leaving a corporate gig in 2012, he'd acquired seven different rentals he would rent out on Airbnb.
As Quartz, the New York Times, and Thrillist have pointed before, Airbnb's practices tend to grate against local housing regulation in many destinations. Those markets include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and more. Miami Beach, part of Airbnb's fourth-largest U.S. market, cracked down on short-term rentals to the tune of $1.6 million in fines in just five months earlier this year.
The company in turn has fought for its right to rent, with mixed results. The company sued New York City in October, electing to drop and settle the suit last week. Per the terms of the settlement, which goes into effect today, New York City "enforces the new law only against hosts and does not fine Airbnb."
Airbnb is looking out for itself, in other words, with the company valued at $30 billion and an IPO looming. That puts the onus on hosts everywhere to know what kind of bargain they're striking. Is renting out your pad for $200 a night worth a $300,000 lawsuit?
For its part, Airbnb hosts regulatory information for hosting Airbnb listings in the United States on its website.