Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Short-term rental owners in Pittsburgh are unhappy with the city's proposed regulations

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

As Pittsburgh City Council returns to the regulation of short-term rental properties in the coming weeks, they can expect to hear from a chorus of opponents: Many owners of Airbnbs voiced concerns last week about a bill to regulate properties rented through online services like Airbnb.

The legislation would require owners of short term rentals to become licensed with the city in order to operate, and renew the license annually. It would also limit how long a guest could stay to 15 days.

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

Chad Wise represents the Steel City Short Term Rental Alliance. He said the city would benefit from having more short-term rentals, and legislation like this hurts the business.

"We know that the vast majority of hosts act in good faith and are valuable members of our community," he said. "SteelSTRA welcomes effective legislation, the keyword being 'effective.' We ask [to be] invited to work directly with you to develop this legislation."

The legislation was drafted after two teenagers were shot to death during a party was hosted at a North Side Airbnb. The company has said the person who rented the property has been banned for life, as the party violated the company's rules.

But Airbnb owner Jia Ji said the city's bill as written "does nothing to prevent this tragedy from reoccurring."

"Under Airbnb policies, the party was illegal. What we need is better enforcement of existing laws and better gun control."

Elana Zaitsoff is an Oak Cliff resident and said she appreciated the legislation. But she pointed out that while the legislation acknowledged that Airbnb's add to parking stresses, the bill doesn't provide any solutions to the problem.

"The ordinance does nothing to help residents in this matter," she said. "At some point consideration for Pittsburgh residents ... has to be given for their daily parking challenges and not allow businesses to make their challenges worse."

Lauren Brinjac, the senior director of government affairs with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, also called for strengthening the bill. The group's membership includes traditional hotel and motel operators, and Brinjac said members favored strengthening the ordinance. She recommended it include a requirement that owners have liability insurance, make contact information available, and raise the age for booking a room to at least 21 years old.

"This would make this legislation more effective, as well as hold short-term rentals to a standard that is more comparable to what hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are held," she said.

Councilor Bruce Kraus said his district, which includes the city's South Side, is heavily impacted by short-term rentals.

"My busiest day is Mondays [because] I spend the entire day on the phone because I deal with things that happened over the weekend," he said. Callers often express frustration with goings-on at short-term rental properties nearby, he said: "It stresses the importance of having a local agent we can talk to in real time."

When the bill was introduced, councilors said it should include a provision requiring a local liaison to address concerns at specific properties. That has not been added to the legislation yet, though it could be when council revisits the legislation early next month.