We hate to rain on your Airbnb parade, but if you’re renting out your apartment to tourists or vagrants on the popular website, there’s a good chance it’s illegal.
There’s only a few spots in the city that are zoned to allow people to offer short-term rentals, NewsWorks’ Zack Seward recently reported, and even if you live in those spots, you need to have a special short-term rental license. Still, the city has yet to come after anyone for renting their apartment via Airbnb, NewsWorks reported. The folks from on-demand car service app Sidecar, which recently expanded to Philly, haven’t been as lucky, as we’ve reported.
Beyond that, remember that to operate any business in Philadelphia — any operation in which you exchange goods and services for money at all — you technically need a business privilege license to operate legally because, of course, you should be paying taxes on that income.
And while we’re on the subject of renting your place out to strangers, here’s a cautionary tale (plus an update) from City Paper that illustrates how hard it is to legally get someone out of your house once you’ve taken money from them (and they legally become “a tenant”).
This may still be early on in the pipeline of consumer web services that reduce so much friction to transactions that they fly in the face of local regulations. Think about Gov. Tom Corbett’s testy relationship with eBay and sales tax, or how Craigslist had more than a decade of community listings before a slate of governmental crackdowns around it being a forum for unlicensed transactions.
Airbnb, Uber, Sidecar and others are meeting that very fate now. At best, it’s disruptions being brought into the mainstream to save us from outdated policy. At worst, it’s another roadblock to innovation in our economy across any number of industries.