Festival season brings increase in illegal rentals

Published: Mar. 26, 2014 at 1:55 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The cubes are out.

Jazz Fest is just a few weeks away, and lovers of music, food and art will soon fill the city.

Along with more than 425,000 expected attendees, a convention will bring another 12,000 people over the first weekend.

"The American Association of Orthodontics will be in town the 25th, so the first weekend will be busy but exciting," says Lauren Cason with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

That means places to stay will be in high demand.

Hotels are filling up fast and listings on sites like Craigslist are being added every day. But these private, short-term rentals are illegal in New Orleans.

"Some people genuinely don't know that it's illegal, but a lot of people do and we just need to make sure that everyone - even the people who aren't doing it but whose neighbors are doing it - are aware that it's not permitted," says Meg Lousteau, Executive Director of Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associations, or VCPORA.

Lousteau says illegal short-term rentals have long been a problem in the French Quarter, one that's only getting worse with sites like Airbnb.

"There's definitely been an uptick, and we're seeing it spread to other neighborhoods," she says. "We get calls all the time from neighborhoods around town - Marigny, Treme, Bywater, Faubourg St. John, Uptown, Algiers Point - where neighbors are horrified to find out that the cute little house next to them that used to house a family is now being rented out to college kids for spring break."

VCPORA members estimate that the city loses about $1.4 million in taxes and licensing fees each year to illegal rentals.

The places don't have to meet safety standards, and some listings even turn out to be scams.

With licensed, legal rooms expected to be at a premium this Jazz Fest, Cason recommends booking soon.

"Since the cubes are out today, I'm sure people are scoping, planning their weekend and booking their rooms," she says. "So come early, wear sunscreen, pack a bag and get ready."

The City of New Orleans has a full list of legal, short-term rentals here.

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