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Airbnb Hosts Forum As San Antonio Short-Term Rental Deadline Nears

Blue Star Jan. 28
Paul Flahive
Texas Public Radio
Collin Ronan with Airbnb speaks at Blue Star Brewing

Christine Becksted attempted to check people in at an Airbnb host meeting Monday night at Blue Star Brewing Company.

Becksted said they had 60 RSVPs but expected more.

“We expect another twenty,” she said, waving a hand at the already standing-room-only room.

“If we already have everything filled out, can we register right now?” asked one man, checking in at the meeting for Airbnb hosts.

“I think you should speak with those two city officials over there,” said Becksted, directing the short-term rental host to a cadre of San Antonio development services staff along the left side of the room.

The city passed rules around short-term rentals in November, making it illegal to operate one without a permit.

Development Services assistant director Melissa Ramirez

But while some estimate more than 2,000 properties are being used this way, only 335 properties have applied for the new permit as of last Friday.

The company and the city are working together to ensure people register their properties as rentals before the Feb. 11 deadline set by the city’s ordinance.

The city is rolling out a new page on their website Friday to streamline the process of registering and paying the 9 percent hotel occupancy tax.

“That’s why we’re doing these events because we want to get that word out. We’ve been working with the platforms quite a bit,” said Melissa Ramirez with development services. “... We want everyone to come into compliance and have a safe short-term rental for all our citizens and our visitors coming to San Antonio.”

The new ordinance provides for penalties, but city officials have said time and again that they will try to be proactive without being punitive going forward. They will work with newly contracted company Host Compliance to identify unregistered STRs and reach out again. Only after multiple attempts if the city finds that someone isn’t willing to “meet the halfway” will there be penalties.

There are 750 STRs actively paying the city’s 9 percent hotel occupancy tax, more than twice those that have registered.

Leonard Cardenas, one of the more than 400 people paying the tax but not yet permitted, said he hasn’t felt confident when filling out the form and hopes the meeting will tell him how to do that.

“We just want to make sure we do it right and get it legal,” he said.

For some, they still may not understand they need to still register. Airbnb requires people who sign up to check a box saying they are abiding by all local rules.

“Sometimes hosts will check that box thinking it’s like a term of service and not realizing they need to do a little research on how to get registered,” said Collin Ronan with Airbnb.

The meeting was organized by Airbnb, which has lauded San Antonio’s law compared to more stringent ones across the country.

Another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night at Kunstler Brewing.


Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive