New Orleans officials said Friday that the number of applications received from property owners seeking legal permission to operate short-term rentals in the city is "probably a bit higher than we expected." Registration began March 13.
So far, with a day to go before new regulations on those rentals go into effect, the city has gotten more than 740 applications for short-term rental licenses. Enforcement won't kick in until mid-May.
While the city estimates the total number of short-term rentals available in the city is in the range of 4,000 to 5,000, Director of Safety and Permits Jared Munster said the bulk of applications for those operations are expected to come in starting Saturday.
That's when the rules passed by the City Council last year technically take effect. It's also when Airbnb, the largest online short-term rental platform, begins allowing its hosts to sign up for licenses using a "pass-through" registration on the company's website.
Officials estimate the pass-through could bring in about 2,000 new registrations, Munster said.
Response so far "is probably a little bit higher than we expected. Technically speaking, none of this is real until tomorrow," Munster said. "We think these numbers are very good for it not being a real requirement yet. We know a lot of people are going to use the pass-through registration."
A larger share taxes generated by short-term rentals on platforms such as Airbnb would go to…
Enforcement of the new regulations in most of the city won't begin until May 15, to give hosts time to get licenses and to comply with the new rules, Munster said.
Because short-term rentals are banned in most of the French Quarter, however, enforcement may begin earlier there.
The city expects to have approved 500 to 600 rentals by Saturday, meaning the only remaining step for those operations will be to pay the fees associated with a license, Munster said.
Airbnb struck an agreement with city officials as they were crafting regulations on short-term rentals, getting some concessions on the rules in exchange for agreeing to collect taxes, provide information on the hosts renting out their homes and possibly assist in enforcement.
Other major platforms, including VRBO and HomeAway, did not make such agreements, though Munster said discussions are underway with them.
One major challenge facing the city will be enforcing the rules on "temporary licenses," which allow the rental of an entire home for up to 90 days a year.
While Airbnb will provide anonymous information on how many days a property has been rented out each year and the city will have the power to subpoena more information when a property gets close to the limit, no such agreement is yet in place for other platforms. It's not clear how officials will know a property is nearing the limit if its rentals are spread out across multiple platforms.
Regardless of the platform, the city will not count any days the property was rented before Saturday toward the 2017 cap on temporary rentals.
In addition to temporary rentals, the city's rules also allow for "accessory rentals," which allow the listing of individual rooms in a home or of entire half-doubles, and "commercial rentals," which allow for the unlimited rental of properties in commercial or multi-use zoning.
Airbnb also has been collecting hotel and motel taxes on its listings since the beginning of the year. However, the city has refused to release information on how much is being collected in taxes, citing a state law that prohibits the disclosure of information that would identify how much a specific taxpayer is paying in taxes.
The New Orleans Advocate is tracking short-term rental license applications as they come. The following interactive will be updated daily.