Juneau residents who run short-term rentals will have to register their businesses with the city starting this fall.
The Juneau Assembly approved the program at a meeting Monday night. City leaders say it will help ensure operators are paying sales tax and provide data on the growing short-term rental market – data that could eventually shape restrictions on them amid Juneau’s housing crunch.
Assembly member Wade Bryon said it was the result of many meetings over the last year.
“We’ve had probably 20 hours worth of discussion of short-term rentals,” he said. “This ordinance did not come about overnight.”
The registration program will assign a unique number to each unit and require operators to include that number in online listings. They’ll face a $25 fee each time they fail to include the number with a listing.
The Assembly considered an earlier version of the program at its June meeting but decided it needed more work after rental operators spoke against it. The new version removes requirements for rental operators to give emergency contact information or describe amenities when registering.
The Assembly also approved a later start date for the program – it’ll go into effect in 90 days instead of 30.
Still, five short-term rental operators spoke in opposition to the revised version. Bed-and-breakfast owner Dale Anderson told the Assembly the additional paperwork would be a burden on the operators who do pay their taxes.
“I find it objectionable that you are placing these onerous restrictions on my business, that I have totally run above board according to CBJ guidelines, in order to catch the bad guys,” he said.
Mayor Beth Weldon introduced an amendment to allow property managers to register on behalf of the property owners. It came after Juneau resident Kelli Ballou described her role as a broker for short-term rental owners.
“If the property owner who pays me also has to have his own business license and tax account, and also do quarterly reporting and annual registration renewals, then that takes all the value out of the service I’m selling them,” she said. “I won’t be worth much if they have to do all the work.”
The amendment passed, along with one that notes the financial responsibility for taxes and penalties ultimately falls on the property owner.
The registration program doesn’t limit the number of rentals one person can register, nor does it charge a registration fee. But Assembly members acknowledged that they’ve already been talking about steps they could take to further regulate short-term rentals. For example, Sitka requires short-term rental owners to live on the property for half of the year.
“There is the possibility that regulation might be coming,” Juneau Assembly member Michelle Hale said on Monday. “That might be happening, and I don’t want to pretend that it might not be happening.”
Member Maria Gladziszewski said the registration program will help ensure they take those next steps thoughtfully.
“This is, for me, about getting data. We have some pressure from our community to do something about short-term rentals,” she said. “I’m not in favor of quote ‘doing something’ about short-term rentals when we don’t have data.”
The registration program will begin in October.