New Airbnb rules in Chicago

airbnb-rentalOn 22 June 2016, the Chicago City Council backed a new set of online home rental rules, particularly those backed by the online rental company Airbnb. The new rules are something of a complicated compromise between different factions inside the city of Chicago, complete with elaborate rules for what properties may and may not be rented, as well as equally elaborate ways around those rules. The legislation was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and while there was a great deal of vocal opposition, the legislation passed 43 to 7. There was fierce debate and intense lobbying on the part of Airbnb, but the compromise rules are already going into effect.

Guests in Chicago residential properties became somewhat of an issue recently when online rental company Airbnb began doing business in the city. While complaints of noisy guests renting properties in otherwise peaceful neighborhoods was a prime concern, other problems seemed to be waiting in the wings as well. Though Chicago business is not quite as corrupt as popular portrayals make it out to be, there was a legitimate concern that new “investor schemes” would spring up in the city if regulation wasn’t passed to curb the uncontrolled business of online rental properties. Other concerns about out of control out of towners also permeated the vote.

Still, the measure passed, with Mayor Emanuel introducing it in the spring and touting a fee on the industry as a means to help Chicago’s homeless population as well as creating genuine constraints on the industry. Though the mayor predicted an easy backing by the city council, the legislation got stalled when confusion over the proposed rules and clashing interests inside the city’s political and business communities began to butt heads over what form the new rules would take when enacted.

It was a multi-sided legislative clash that involved an Airbnb backed advertising and lobbying campaign, aldermen in neighborhoods where residents have complained about out of control rental properties, hosts associated with Airbnb determined to protect their livelihoods and city officials desperate to strike some kind of balance between these battling factions. On top of a wide range of new rules about what properties can and can’t be rented to online companies like Airbnb (as well as limitations on how many), Airbnb and other companies with a similar business model are being saddled with fees, including a 60 USD fee for each Chicago address the company lists and a 10,000 USD license needed to operate in the city.