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Mountain View law hits Airbnb providers with fees, restrictions

Mountain View residents offering short-term rentals on their properties will need to pay the city for that privilege after a new ordinance took effect last month.

The city council last October introduced an ordinance that establishes operating standards for such rentals, which are often conducted through online platforms like Airbnb. Under the new law, property owners offering short-term rentals (STRs) beginning July 1 were required to register with the city.

The process carries a host of fees. For starters, the city requires $165 annually for registration, which officials said is “designed to recover the city’s cost of regulating STRs.”

Guests and renters also are subject to the city’s transient occupancy tax, equivalent to 10% of the rental costs. And renters must pay for an annual business license fee.

Such regulation stems from residents’ concerns in recent years that the proliferation of Airbnb rentals was adversely impacting neighborhoods by bringing excessive traffic, parking and noise.

Los Altos doesn’t allow any residential short-term rentals, defined as stays less than 30 days. The city council in May 2018 adopted an ordinance prohibiting such rentals, with the exception of hotels.

While Mountain View’s law allows unlimited hosted rentals where the operator is present on-site, the city limits unhosted rentals – where the owner is not present – to a maximum of 60 nights annually.

Unhosted rentals have sometimes resulted in parties generating noise, trash and overflow parking. The new law prohibits “special events, weddings, parties, corporate gatherings, and other similar events which have the potential to cause traffic, parking, noise, trash, or other impacts in the neighborhood” at the short-term rental property during the short-term rental, the ordinance states.

In addition, STR operators must provide the city and their neighbors with the contact information for a local person able to respond to concerns and complaints within 60 minutes. The city can revoke registration and prohibit a property from being used for failure to comply with regulations.

Operating without registration will result in a first-notice warning with 30 days to comply, followed by a $500 fine with the second notice and a $1,000 fine with the third notice.

Operating with revoked or denied registration, or exceeding the 60-night limit for absentee operators, can result in fines of $500 per day.

Shonda Ranson, the city’s communications coordinator, said Mountain View has more than 800 STR operators listed on various platforms over the past year, but only one had fully registered as of two weeks ago.

The city has extended a grace period to Sept. 1 to allow for registration “before we start checking for compliance,” she said.

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