Back in August Portland auditors found about 80 percent of short-term rentals operate illegally, and now the Portland Tribune in an excellent article has exposed a fictitious Airbnb host named Nadia who claimed to live in Portland, Seattle and San Diego and had hundreds of short-term rental listings.
Portland’s short-term rental regulations require hosts to get a Type A or Type B permit depending on the size of the rental and follow certain restrictions:
- The host must occupy the residence at least nine months of the year
- The rental property must be the primary residence of the host
- A maximum of 25 percent of units in a multi-family building may be rented
- Rentals must be for less than 30 days
“Nadia claimed on the Airbnb website to live in Portland, Seattle and San Diego. The photo of Nadia used with her listings, the Tribune discovered, is the exact same image used by a model for web pieces such as “100 Pretty Back to School Outfits” and “Becoming a Preppy Girl in High School.” Nadia’s listings also use the same photos repeatedly to depict multiple Airbnb listings in Portland and other cities,” the Tribune reported.
The Tribune reported that the fraudulent host, Nadia still had 120 Portland properties listed on Airbnb, plus nearly 500 in five other cities even after they exposed her as a fictitious host.
Short-term rental companies operating like the Wild West
As a result of the Tribune’s reporting, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told the newspaper “Airbnb and other short-term rental companies have been operating like ‘the Wild Wild West’ in Portland, but now ‘there’s a new sheriff in town.’ ”
Wheeler told the Tribune a pending deal being negotiated with Airbnb will make it easy to eliminate illegal or bogus listings on the short-term rental website by allowing the company to register its own hosts online, if they attest that they are meeting city rules. The city would end mandatory inspections of potential Airbnb properties by the Bureau of Development Services, while retaining the right to do spot inspections.
In exchange, Airbnb would have to divulge the names and addresses of its hosts to the city.
The Bureau of Development Services conducts home inspections before issuing permits to ensure the safety of visitors renting the units. Development Services also investigates complaints and enforces short-term rental regulations.
Portland reached agreement with short-term rental company HomeAway
Hosts are required to obtain a business license from the Bureau of Revenue and Financial Services and pay City taxes and fees. Those taxes include the lodging tax also required of hotels, and a business tax if rental and other business income combined exceeds $50,000 per year. Recent changes to city tax codes also added fees specific to short-term rentals. Online booking agents may remit lodging taxes and fees on behalf of hosts.
The city’s audit in August said, “Of approximately15 booking agents active in Portland, none regularly provide data to the City, citing privacy protections for hosts. The City recently reached an agreement with one booking agent, HomeAway, to provide data on hosts as soon as Airbnb also agrees to provide data to the City. At the time of this audit, the City had not yet reached agreement with other booking agents.”