Montgomery County Council member Hans Riemer on Tuesday introduced legislation he said would legalize the use of Airbnb in Montgomery County, but prevent homeowners from converting their properties into full-time rentable spaces.
Riemer introduced a zoning text amendment and a companion bill to address the issue, which he first pursued last year after the county’s new zoning code effectively made it illegal to use Airbnb to offer parts of houses or entire homes for rent.
The San Francisco-based company provides a system for property owners to list rooms in their homes or their entire homes for rent online. The Internet-based incarnation of a bed and breakfast surpassed 800,000 listings worldwide in 2014 and about 10 million people rented rooms using the service that year.
A search on Airbnb Tuesday morning showed 18 listings in Bethesda, ranging from $50 to $400 a night.
Because the county’s zoning code prohibits any tenancy of less than a month in all residential zones, those listings are likely illegal under county law.
Riemer’s zoning text amendment would revise the county’s standards for a bed and breakfast by eliminating minimum lot-size requirements, limiting the number of people allowed to five unrelated people or one family of any size and requiring the property must be the primary residence of the Airbnb user.
“I asked myself in crafting this legislation, how would I feel if it was my own next-door neighbor who was potentially using Airbnb? I concluded that I wouldn’t want someone to buy the house next to me and turn it into a full-time rental,” Riemer said during the council’s session Tuesday. “I’d be fine if my neighbor wanted to occasionally rent their house out. What am I going to say about that?”
The companion bill Riemer also introduced Tuesday would set up the licensing process for bed and breakfast establishments, assigning responsibilities for Airbnb licensing to the county’s Health and Human Services department.
Both the zoning change and bill will be the subject of a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. March 8.
The county hasn’t enforced the existing zoning law. Last year, County Executive Ike Leggett requested and got approved a bill that imposes a tax of 7 percent of the cost of any rental in the county through Airbnb and similar websites such as HomeAway and Loft.
The county expected to collect $228,000 in tax revenue from those transactions in the fiscal year that began July 1, 2015, and ends June 30.