BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Renting an Airbnb in Louisiana could soon cost more money. A bill is in the works that would apply the hotel occupancy tax to short-term rentals. That move comes as the Spanish Town Civic Association explores options to regulate the growing number of short-term rental properties in their neighborhood.
As Baton Rouge's oldest neighborhood, the historic charm of Spanish Town is one of its biggest selling points.
“A lot of people have said it’s the Marigny of Baton Rouge or the Quarter of Baton Rouge, so it’s got a feel to it that I don’t think you can see in a lot of other places inside Baton Rouge,” Civic Association President Collin Richie said.
Just like in those New Orleans neighborhoods, he says it appears more Spanish Town homes are now being used exclusively for short-term rentals. Critics worry that could push out long-time residents and rip apart the fabric of the neighborhood.
“The concern is the hands-off Airbnb owners that are buying properties, flipping them, and then just renting them out sight unseen,” Richie explained. “So there’s no one there to monitor it. There’s not like there’s a manager at the front desk.”
Richie rents his own property through Airbnb, but he lives on-site. He says that allows him to intervene during any type of disturbance and control where his guests park.
The civic association is working with Councilwoman Tara Wicker to come up with sensible regulations. Options include requiring owners to live on-site, requiring a permit for short-term rentals, or limiting the number of short-term rentals altogether. Nothing specific has been proposed yet, and it will be up to the metro council to decide what moves forward.
Meanwhile, a bill being prepared for the 2019 legislative session would require Airbnbs to pay the hotel tax determined by each parish.
“What we want to see is all types of accommodations coming into our markets in Louisiana, but also all of them operating at a level playing field, paying the same type of taxes and then those taxes going back to the local community,” said Laura Cating, vice president of communications for the Louisiana Travel Association (LTA).
LTA represents convention and visitors bureaus across the state. Many of those offices, including Visit Baton Rouge, are funded by the hotel tax. Tourism leaders believe all visitors should be contributing, not just those who stay in hotels. It’s an argument Airbnb has heard before.
“So far, we have seen not just Airbnb, but also other short-term rental companies receptive to these types of taxation issues kind of across the board,” Cating explained.