Despite illegal short term rental listings, N.O. compliance estimate may surprise

Airbnb renters are staying in places that are off limits according to new regulations passed by the New Orleans City Council, but anyone can find, and pay for, those unregulated listings.

NEW ORLEANS - As summer heats up for tourists, the city is also turning up the heat on illegal short-term rental operators.

Eyewitness News ran into a pair of visitors who told us they were actually renting in the French Quarter, in a place that's supposed to be off limits, something they had no idea about.

"If it weren't for AirBnB, we wouldn't be here," said Kevin Seymour, who is visiting with his partner, Christine Jones.

"I'm not here to spend a lot of time in a room I just want it to be clean, and I want it to be safe,"Jones said.

For the couple, online short-term rental services have helped make traveling more affordable, but for the City of New Orleans, these new services are making them play catch up. 

The city began enforcement of its regulations in April.  While travelers are still finding some listings that aren't supposed to be there, most are actually in compliance.

"We actually are very happy with the way things are going, the estimates were between 4,000-5,000 rentals, and as our numbers show, about 4,400 people have applied so far," said Jared Munster, with the City of New Orleans Safety and Permits Department.

By that estimate, that's about 90 percent, but there are some bad actors out there.

"It's sort of becoming a game at this point,  where property owners are de-listed one day and re-listing the next day sort of under a new user profile," Munster said.

As the game plays out, one real estate broker in the Quarter says home prices are dropping.

"5, 10 percent," estimated Finis Shelnutt, owner of Finis Shelnutt Real Estate.

Shelnutt says despite the drop, homes in the French Quarter are still pricey, while prices continue to increase around the rest of the city.

"Which is good for revenue for the city [as it relates to property tax], but their purpose was, from what I understood for affordable housing," Shelnutt said.

As for visitors, Kevin Seymour and Christine Jones, they say they'll think twice about staying in the French Quarter if they ever come back. 

We checked with Airbnb to see if they will start prohibiting hosts from listing in the French Quarter and if they will carefully screen out those creating multiple accounts to skirt around the rules.  A representative responded and released the following statement. 

"We worked closely with the City of New Orleans to develop a streamlined registration system that provides the City the tools it needs to enforce the law, and it's important for all hosts to comply with these new regulations. As part of our commitment to being good partners with the City, hosts who did not apply for their license had their short-term rentals delisted from our platform earlier this month, and this process is continuing."

© 2017 WWL-TV


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