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January 03, 2023

Airbnb hosts must apply for licenses and permits as new regulations go into effect

City Council passed the measure in 2021 as a way to provide oversight over Philly's short-term rental industry and crack down on party houses

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Airbnb hosts must apply for limited lodging or hotel licenses for their properties and must make sure that all of their short-term rentals comply with Philadelphia's safety code, as a new set of regulations go into effect across the city.

As 2023 kicks off in Philadelphia, Airbnb hosts are facing a stricter set of regulations for their short-term rental properties, including applying for lodging licenses and complying with safety code requirements set by the city. 

Airbnb rentals in the city must be licensed for limited lodging if the host lives in the property, or equipped with a hotel license if the host lives elsewhere. Though the city has required licenses for many of its short-term rentals since 2015, those requirements were not strictly enforced.

The regulations, which went into effect on Sunday, were approved by City Council in 2021 as a way to provide additional oversight into the burgeoning short-term rental industry. The city got involved after a series of controversies surrounding so-called Airbnb "party houses" which caused disturbances to long-term residents in neighborhoods throughout the city. 

In many cases, property owners would rent out to long-term tenants, who would then host the properties on Airbnb. When neighbors living near these party hubs complained to the city about excessive noise, litter and violence, it was unclear how to contact the owners and find out who was renting out the property. 

In order to make it easier for Airbnb guests and community members to understand who is responsible for the properties hosted on the short-term rental site, the city now requires property owners, booking agents and anyone else with equity interest in the rentals to provide contact information on their permit applications before they are sent to the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment. 

The measure was initially meant to be implemented in April 2022, but was delayed by more than half a year in order to allow the city's Airbnb hosts time to review and comply with the regulations. 

When the city initially implemented licensing requirements for Airbnb listings and passed an 8.5% tax on short-term rentals in 2015, only individuals who rented out their homes for more than 90 days needed a license. 

Under the new regulations, individuals renting out their homes for any amount of time must apply for limited lodging operator and commercial activity licenses before they can host guests through Airbnb. Owners also need a zoning permit to rent out their home for up to 30 consecutive days. 

Renting out a property where the host doesn't live has always been illegal without a hotel license. With the new regulations, property owners who don't live in the unit hosted on Airbnb must apply for a hotel license and zoning permit through the Zoning Board before welcoming short-term renters. 

Those renting out their homes must ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are installed in the property. Limited lodging units must comply with the city's lead paint requirements, and Airbnb units cannot already be occupied by more than three people. Hosts must inform guests that excessive noise is prohibited, and that violators are subject to penalties and fees.

Councilmember Mark Squilla, who sponsored the measure, told the Inquirer last week that the city is not "anti-rentals," but wants to be able to provide safe and sufficient short-term housing in advance of a number of big events coming to the city, including the World Cup and celebrations of the nation's semiquincentennial in 2026. 

Property owners considering renting out portions of their home on Airbnb can review each of the new requirements on Airbnb's website, and can apply for zoning permits and other licenses using these guides provided by the city.