It was just last week that we were musing on accommodations in Philly offered by Airbnb, the short-stay, hotel-alternative travel service that is rapidly gaining popularity all over the world. It turns out, however, that the service may in fact be running afoul of hotel regulations in any number of municipalities, including New York City. The permanent loss of NYC would be a huge blow to Airbnb — they say they’re going to fight the case, which could well precipitate some fights all over the place as to what is the legal distinction between a sublet and an illegal hotel.
But what about Philly? It may come down to who in Philly perceives Airbnb as a threat. In the case of SideCar — a ridesharing app that seeks, in many crowd-source-y ways, to do for local transportation what Airbnb does for accommodations — it turned out that the Philadelphia Parking Authority immediately perceived such a threat to the local taxi market. Will Philly’s hotel industry feel the same about Airbnb? If so, Airbnb hosts could well feel a sting from this bit of Philly tax law: “[A] tax is imposed at the rate of 7% of the amount paid by each patron for the occupancy of a room with sleeping accommodations in a hotel, motel, inn, guesthouse or bed and breakfast.” We’re guessing that most hosts wouldn’t even know how to begin filing for the proper permissions for something like this in Philly, while Airbnb, for their part, kick the can to hosts on this as a matter of their own policy:
If you’re an Airbnb host, you must make sure of the following:
[…]you have all necessary permissions to offer your accommodations, including ensuring that your hosting activity (i) will not breach any agreements you have entered into with any third parties (such as any agreements or rules with a landlord or HOA) and (ii) will (a) be in compliance with all applicable laws, Tax requirements, and rules and regulations that may apply to your Accommodations, including, but not limited to, zoning laws and laws governing rentals of residential and other properties and (b) will not conflict with the rights of third parties
Then again, this will all depend on how the City views services like Airbnb, if in fact it’s taking a look at all.