Letter to Mayor Bowser: Request for Delay in Enforcement of STR Law

Letter to Mayor Bowser: Request for Delay in Enforcement of STR Law

March 24, 2022

Mayor Muriel Bowser
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mayor Bowser:

On behalf of the Travel Technology Association and our members, I am writing to you regarding the District of Columbia short-term rental regulation published on December 3, 2021. For the reasons set forth below, we respectfully request that you direct the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to use its discretion to change the enforcement date of this regulation from April 10, 2022, to September 10, 2022, to allow all short-term rental hosts, property owners, and managers sufficient time to comply with the rule.

The Travel Technology Association is the trade association representing the world’s leading short-term rental platforms. Short-term rentals are a critical component to travel and tourism as we emerge from the pandemic. Recent consumer polling conducted by Travel Tech found that over 70% of travelers booked a short-term rental in the past year.

Short-term rentals have been and continue to be a significant part of the Washington economy and important to a diverse set of residents. Specifically:

  • In 2021, Airbnb remitted over $10M in hotel taxes on behalf of hosts, which is dedicated to support of District commitments such as bonding to the Convention Center.
  • As of Dec 31, 2021, Airbnb is a source of income for over 3,200 hosts statewide in DC
  • 52% of hosts in DC self-identify as women and 18% of surveyed hosts live with their children
  • 46% of hosts surveyed in DC said that the money they’ve earned by renting out space on Airbnb helped them stay in their home. And 16% of hosts surveyed in DC said that renting out space on Airbnb has helped them avoid eviction or foreclosure.*
  • 24% of hosts surveyed in DC said either they or someone in their household experienced a pay cut or lost work hours in 2020 because of the pandemic; 10% said they lost their jobs or were laid off themselves, or lived with someone who did.*
  • About 22% of hosts surveyed in DC are either themselves or someone in their household a small or independent business owner; 5% are healthcare workers; and 5% are teachers.*

* Survey answered between February 1st and March 3rd, 2021, by Homes hosts who hosted at least a Trip during 2020.

The District’s recently adopted short-term rental law poses a grave and immediate threat to hosts, visitors, small businesses, and the city’s tourism economy at large as the April 10 enforcement date looms and hosts have faced numerous challenges in the licensing process. We urge that you ask the Director of DCRA to move back the enforcement date to September 10, 2022, to allow all short-term rental hosts, property owners, and managers additional time to comply with the law.

The reasons for this reasonable request follow:

1. DCRA published its regulations for the implementation of the law on December 3, 2021 and opened the Portal for registration on January 1, 2022. This has given hosts, property owners, and managers a very short time to comply with one of the most complicated short- term rental laws in the United States.

2. To illustrate the complexity and difficulty of compliance with the new law, thus far, less than 15% of all Airbnb hosts have successfully completed the registration process, and many have encountered significant delays in obtaining necessary authorizations from DC agencies. For example, they have faced delays in receiving authorization letters to comply with the Homestead Tax Deduction requirement from the Office of Tax and Revenue.

3. Owners, property managers, hosts, and short-term rental platforms received very little notice from DCRA on their decision to implement this law at the end of 2021. The platforms rapidly notified hosts, property owners, and managers of the need to begin to prepare to register. This included, but has not been limited to, organizing webinars with DCRA staff on how to comply, numerous emails, as well as text messages to hosts, property owners and managers via the platforms. The platforms have taken great measures to attempt to inform and educate short-term rental hosts, owners and managers, and despite these efforts, challenges to comply with the law remain.

4. The confusion and difficulty in obtaining licenses poses a threat to reservations that were made before adoption of the new law and that may very well be valid under this law were it not for the difficulty of obtaining a license. It would be unfair to short-term rental operators and travelers alike to force a cancellation of such reservations.

In summary, we are asking for an extension of the enforcement date—not a pause in implementation—to September 10, 2022, at which time we believe all STR Hosts who can comply will have the needed time to comply. To be clear, we are not asking for changes to the law. We are simply asking for a reasonable amount of time for short-term rental operators to comply.

Thank you for your consideration of this important and urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Steve Shur
President, The Travel Technology Association