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Seattle could set limits for Airbnb hosts

caption: Tiny cabin on Queen Anne; $65. On same property as several other quirky dwellings.
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Tiny cabin on Queen Anne; $65. On same property as several other quirky dwellings.
Courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb and VRBO (vacation rentals by owner) type rentals could come under new restrictions in Seattle. There would be a limit on how many nights a host could rent their space under a city proposal that was announced Wednesday.

PHOTOS: Remarkable Airbnb rentals in Seattle

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Tim Burgess proposed the new rules. Burgess says they’re focused on home or apartment owners who rent out multiple units as short-term rentals (but it would impact any host no matter how many units they have).

Under the proposal, people who live on the property could rent out an extra room as many nights as they want. They would need to obtain an extra city license. But hosts who don't live on the property could only rent the space for 90 days a year.

That would affect Airbnb host Seth Gordon. He rents out a few three-bedroom homes in the Fremont neighborhood and pays city taxes to do it.

Gordon says that retroactively limiting the use of his investment would put him in a bad and unforeseen financial place.

“The home is fully furnished with nice, high end, comfortable furnishings, and if I rented it otherwise I would have to sell all of those at a loss, and just deal with a whole bunch of things that I never planned on having to manage," he said.

Gordon said he typically rents to families. His policy is to not allow weekend rentals because he doesn't want to disturb the neighborhood with people here to party for the weekend.

Councilmember Burgess said using homes and apartments strictly as short term rentals dangerously reduces Seattle's housing supply.

The proposal would also require Airbnb and related companies to turn over their list of Seattle hosts and their rental data to the city. Burgess will formally introduce his proposal on June 15 in a council committee.

Airbnb statement on proposal:

"The policy paper proposed by Councilman Burgess and members of city staff is a great first step toward creating sensible rules for home sharing. The proposal takes into account the important distinctions between those who share their homes on occasion to help make ends meet and those who do so with greater frequency.

"However, we have legal and privacy concerns with any requirement compelling platforms like Airbnb to turn over personal, confidential information about the people who use our service without any idea about how that information would be used. We believe there are alternative ways for the City to enforce its regulations without compromising consumer privacy, and remain hopeful we can work together to devise a balanced solution."

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