Local News

Raleigh eyes review of online room rentals

Posted November 24, 2014 6:30 p.m. EST
Updated December 2, 2014 4:58 p.m. EST

— After a complaint was filed against a Five Points resident who rents out a room in his home through the Airbnb online service, Raleigh officials are considering looking more closely at such rentals to determine if they should be regulated and how best to do it.

Airbnb offers unique places to rent in more than 190 different countries. Many are nightly rentals in private homes – areas that aren't zoned for conducting business such as offering accommodations.

Gregg Stebben said he checked with Raleigh zoning officials before listing his room for rent on Airbnb and was told renting rooms in a residential neighborhood is a murky issue but that he was unlikely to face sanctions unless someone complained. One of his neighbors did, but officials said Monday that no enforcement action would occur for a while.

"We haven't kept up with all the technology with the 'shared economy,'" City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said Monday.

The council is expected to ask city staff next week to study the issue.

Raleigh needs to adapt to changes, Baldwin said, noting how the city's position on food trucks evolved from limiting the popular eateries to embracing them.

As a city that prides itself on being innovation-friendly, she said she believes services such as Airbnb could be a good selling point.

"What we need to do is be very thoughtful about this, research what other communities are doing and see how we can tweak the rules," she said.

Earlier this summer, Portland, Ore., became one of the first cities in the nation to legalize short-term rentals in residential areas. Homeowners there have to apply for a permit first.

North Carolina lawmakers also are considering regulating Airbnb accommodations in the state, noting that homeowners aren't collecting occupancy taxes and that there's no way for local officials to enforce sanitation and health standards, as there is with standard hotels.

Steve Sheldon said he and his wife have been renting out a room in their home in Raleigh's Oakwood neighborhood through Airbnb for a year.

"We thought it would be a good thing to meet new people and share our love of this neighborhood," Sheldon said. "We've had people from China, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany. They come for weddings, for parties, for baby showers."

His Oakwood neighbors haven't had a problem with the guests, and he said he hopes Raleigh is open-minded about services such as Airbnb.

"I think this is the future," he said. "I think there's room for everybody."