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Rental wrangles

B&B Operators to council: enforce laws

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  At a meeting of the New Orleans City Council's Housing and Human Needs Committee last week, bed-and-breakfast (B&B) operators, property owners and representatives of the city's tourism industry demanded more stringent enforcement of short-term property rental laws, saying the city's lax attitude takes business from legitimate bed and breakfasts and hotels — and costs the city tax dollars.

  "Every year legitimate operators lose $13 million in potential bookings to illegal short-term rentals," said B&B operator Brian Furness, giving the estimates of the French Quarter Citizens Illegal Short-Term Rental Committee, which is part of the French Quarter Citizens neighborhood group. Based on taxes paid by licensed and permitted facilities, Furness added, "Those illegal operators would owe $1.4 million annually in taxes. Against this backdrop, the city's lack of enforcement is perplexing."

  "I just don't understand how the city can leave all this revenue on the table ... just going by what we pay in taxes," said Bonnie Rabe, president of the Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans and owner of the Grand Victorian Bed and Breakfast on St. Charles Avenue. "The bottom line is people are doing it because they know they can get away with it. They know the city isn't doing anything."

  City ordinance prohibits property owners without hotel or bed-and-breakfast permits from renting out their homes for less than 60 days in the French Quarter or 30 days elsewhere in the city. The city enforces the law by sending out notices to property owners or agents advertising illegal short-terms.

  In a January cover story on Super Bowl rentals, Gambit revealed the city had not sent out any such notice during the entire second half of 2012, despite flagrant online advertising for pricey illegal rentals in the run-up to the big game. Nor had city government ever provided a semi-annual report on enforcement efforts, as required by law.

— CHARLES MALDONADO

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