City threatens non-compliant short-term rentals with fines, powe - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

City threatens non-compliant short-term rentals with fines, power disconnection

With or without enforcement, AirBnb says it's creating a new economic engine. (FOX 8 Photo) With or without enforcement, AirBnb says it's creating a new economic engine. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

The City of New Orleans will start cracking down on illegal short-term rentals heavily starting May 15th, and officials recommend homeowner to get in compliance or face the risk of getting their power turned off. 

"Besides the fines, they can pull your meter so you don't get power. That's pretty strong. No one is going to rent your place without power," attorney Bob Ellis said. 

Ellis worked with the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity to keep the popular and lucrative short-term rental businesses in the city. 

By teaming up with online and app giants Airbnb and VRBO at the beginning of the year, the city stands to make millions in revenue. 

"They'll know a lot more June 1 because then you'll have six months," Ellis said. "As it stands now, I still believe their in the $3-5 million category."

The application process for residents to get a license from the city started March 13th. So far, not nearly enough have applied compared the number of houses and units listed in New Orleans online. 

"There's a lot more applications out there," Ellis said. "When we were looking at the law, we thought there was a body of maybe 4000-5000. Now we know there's 7500." 

"So far, we have just over 1700 applications that have been filed with us, and of those, about 480 of them are issued and another 275 have been approved and are just waiting payment," Director for Safety and Permits Jared Munster said. 

Munster recommended homeowners to apply at City Hall, online at nola.gov/short-term-rentals/ or with the online companies themselves. 

The city is already getting citizens complaints about neighbors running illegal short-term rentals, according to Munster. If found in violation after the May 15th deadline, the city will send a notification to the homeowner to get into compliance.

"Then it goes to an independent hearing officer where fines can be levied. The penalties going up to $500 a day and ultimately could result in power being turned off at the property," Munster said.  

There are skeptics who wonder if the city will be able to enforce the ordinance. 

"It's changing the face of New Orleans neighborhoods drastically," Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents & Associates' Executive Director Meg Lousteau said. "We've been a resource for not just the quarter but for other neighborhoods, and we stand ready to help the city, citizens, neighborhood associations and whomever has an interest in enforcing this as well."

Lousteau fought to minimize the impact of short-term rentals and only properties in the seven-block-entertainment district can legally provide short-term rentals in the French Quarter.

Lousteau believes enforcement will be difficult.

"The platforms like Airbnb and VRBO do not have to share the location which is going to be very challenging in terms of enforcement," she said.  

However, the city is ready to use legal strategies to find out information about residents breaking the law. 

"If we see a listing online, they'll have that unique identifier as listing 45678 on Airbnb. We can send them an administrative subpoena, saying we need all information on this listing. We do not believe they are licensed. Their license number does not appear in their ad, therefore they are in violation of the law," Munster said. "Skating under the radar might work for a little while, but we've got a great team that we've assembled to work on this and we're going to be finding folks. We are going to be tracking down these properties, and we are going to be requiring compliance."

Airbnb Public Policy Director Laura Spanjian released a statement Monday about the city's regulation of short-term rentals. 

"Airbnb, our community of hosts and the City of New Orleans worked closely for several months to develop a streamlined registration system that makes it easy for hosts to register, while giving the City the tools it needs for enforcement. We look forward to continuing to work with city leaders and community organizations to ensure home sharing strengthens neighborhoods and continues generating meaningful economic impact for the city and our hosts."

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