More than 400 notices of short-term rental infractions have gone out to 382 unique addresses across New Orleans since May 1, the work of a staff of seven as the city gears up to manage permitting and infractions of ordinances over rental of rooms and whole homes to tourists by private individuals.
The ordinances, passed in December 2016, were hailed as landmark regulations as communities around the world deal with the social and cultural implications of homes in popular tourist destinations being listed for rent on websites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway.
Airbnb faced a June 1 deadline to remove improperly licensed listings from its website, but as NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reported Wednesday (June 7), there still seem to be kinks in the system as the New Orleans ordinances go into effect. This week, Airbnb searches showed dozens of homes offering occupancy at numbers higher than the maximum 10 people the city allows, as well as listings with occupancy ratings that didn't match their city licenses.
In an interview Thursday morning, Jared Munster, the director of the city's Office of Safety and Permits, said he has a staff of seven people to oversee the implementation of the short term rental ordinances. That staff, he said, reviews online listings and short-term rental license applications and keeps its eyes open for infractions.
"We have inspection staff in the field making observations. We're looking for places that seem to have indicators there may be short-term rentals going on, and we're also patrolling the websites," Munster said. "The code places a maximum, under any circumstances, a maximum of 10 (occupants), so does your listing have a capacity of more than 10? Do you have your license number on the listing as required?"
Still, Munster said, the city has no power over websites such as Airbnb to demand they remove listings, though he said the team is informing them if a license has been revoked. The city also doesn't yet have a full process in place for issuing administrative subpoenas -- which would allow them to pinpoint exact locations of properties listed online -- though they expect to have one nailed down within the "next couple of weeks."
"The city doesn't have regulatory authority over the listing platforms, so we can't dictate to them what has to be on their website," Munster said. "If the max capacity in New Orleans can only be 10, that ultimately has to be on their users -- their permit holders -- that they are complying with the law."
Because the short-term rental citations are land use violations, a violator would receive notice of a citation and, if the violation continues, that would be followed by a scheduled hearing. If the landowner is found guilty, fines could be levied on a graduating scale up to $500 per offense per day, Munster said, and their license could be revoked or suspended.
The first adjudications for short-term rental violations are scheduled for June 21, Munster said. Of those roughly 10 violations, most are in the French Quarter, where short term rentals are only allowed along Bourbon Street.
"What we're working on here is actually becoming the model for the nation ... so we're ahead of the curve on how we're regulating this," Munster said.