Short-Term Rentals, Long-Term Problems

California is facing a widespread housing crisis, partly exacerbated by the massive usage of short-term rental services like Airbnb, VRBO and similar companies.

In Malibu, short-term rentals have sometimes earned a reputation of inviting reckless tourists who disrupt neighborhoods, while some local residents have used the service as secondary income, allowing them to continue living in the area.

Though, Council Member Laura Rosenthal said she no longer rents out her home, during a June City Council meeting, she explained that her family often rented out their home for one or two weeks in the summer to go on vacation. She said during the June meeting that regulations forcing homeowners to stay on the property during short-term rentals could hurt residents who are “house rich and cash poor.”

According to the most recent census, there are 5,245 single-family residences in the city. Of those units, 150 single-family residencies have been registered with the city for short-term rental usage. Those 150 units have generated $1.2 million in transient occupancy tax for the city.

The city has claimed only six reports have been filed on two separate properties to the local code enforcement agency dedicated to managing short term rental complaints.

Malibu may have a contained problem for now, but the residents most affected by short-term rentals are concerned the business could become a Pandora’s box for enterprising property owners.


The Los Angeles area has ample examples of how business-minded landlords could take advantage of short-term rentals if they are not regulated.

Some landlords have converted their apartment complexes into short-term rental units because the revenue is significantly higher. Malibu has already seen one apartment complex turned into a pseudo motel for Airbnb after the landlord evicted all of its tenants.

The practice of flipping apartment buildings into Airbnb factories is banned in Malibu but city staff has said it is difficult to enforce the ban unless the definitions of hotels and motels are clarified.

“When we created the definition of hotels in 1993 no one was thinking about short term rentals,” City Attorney Christi Hogin said.

The City of Santa Monica took a hardline stance against short-term rentals and banned any rental shorter than 30 days where the owner of the property was not present. Santa Monica continues to allow “home-sharing,” which is defined as rentals shorter than 30 days but the owner of the property is present of the duration of the rental.

Santa Monica’s ban took effect earlier this year and began fining landlords who were not in compliance. Some landlords said the ramifications for falling out of compliance haven’t affected their business.

“Even with the $3,500 fine, that’s what one of my properties makes in a month,” Rental Operator Scott Shatford told the LA Times in July.

The simplicity of an outright ban has appealed to some Malibu residents but outlawing the practice would likely result in legal battles.

Airbnb sued the city of Santa Monica, claiming the “clumsily written law” violated first and fourth amendment rights.

“[Santa Monica] is unwilling to make necessary improvements to its draconian law, so while this isn’t a step we wanted to take, it’s the best way to protect our community of hosts and guests,” Spokesperson for Airbnb Alison Schumer told the LA Times in September.

Airbnb has also sued San Francisco and Anaheim for passing laws that restrict their service.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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