NEW ORLEANS - Gary Zachariah has lived in his Marigny home for more than a decade. But he says illegal short term rentals popping up on his block are making it feel less like a neighborhood and more like a hotel.
“Every weekend it's like a tourist zone, there's people with luggage, pulling up in taxis, getting out,” said Zachariah. “We don't even know our neighbors anymore.”
Websites like airbnb.com and vrbo.com show that there are hundreds of illegal short term rentals on the market in New Orleans.
The phenomenon is destroying neighbors quality of life and changing the fabric of neighborhoods that are primarily residential, said Caron.
“I would say probably one in every eight to 10 houses now is an illegal short term rental or bed and breakfasts,” said Ken Caron, of his Marigny neighborhood.
It’s a growing issue throughout the city, and the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association held a public information session on the topic Tuesday night. Dozens of concerned residents attended.
“We're hoping to generate some conversation between the neighborhoods and the city to address the problem,” said FMIA president Miles Swanson.
During the session, Swanson and VCPORA executive director Meg Lousteau told residents about the laws currently on the books, explained what they could do if there is a short term rental in their neighborhood, and described ways to become a licensed bed and breakfast.
It’s illegal to rent your home for less than 30 days in New Orleans, except in the French Quarter, where landlords must rent their property out for at least 60 days. But neighbors say the law is rarely enforced.
“I've tried to go to the zoning department from the city, and I've gotten no response,” said Zachariah.
The city’s department of safety and permits looks into alleged illegal rentals if they have received multiple complaints, and issues violations notices if applicable, said press secretary Tyler Gamble.
But Gamble admits, the current zoning law is hard to enforce.
"The City cannot meet the burden of proof required in an administrative hearing. At this time, we are exploring options to strengthen the zoning law and streamline enforcement," said Gamble in a statement.
Currently, the city says it would have to prove that a landlord didn't just advertise the property, but sucessfully rented it out short term over the course of at least a year "non-residents," a term that is not clearly defined.
“Let’s get the laws in the city, if they're not written right, let's get them written right and let's get them enforced,” said Caron.
If you're cited for having renting your house short term, you could get a $500 fine for a second offense. Three or more offenses could cost you at least $500 and get you a 30 day jail sentence.
The city did not immediately have information available as to how many fines have been issued for illegal short term rentals.
The city planning commission plans to consider at strengthening the zoning code pertaining to short term rentals at its meeting next Tuesday.
If you live near an illegal short term rental, VCPORA and FMIA advise you to try talking with the landlord first, since they may not know it is illegal to rent out their home short term.
If that doesn’t work, they advise you to call the property owner’s mortgage or insurance company, since rules may be different if the building is being used commercially. The land records office can tell you who holds the mortgage.
You can also contact the department of safety and permits, and your city council person.
Lastly, FMIA and VCPORA suggest legal action as a last resort.