Tulsa City Councilors Drafting Regulations for Short-Term Rentals

Oct 11, 2017

City councilors are working on regulations for short-term rentals. Rooms or entire houses can be listed for rent on websites like HomeAway or Airbnb.

City councilors are working on regulations for short-term rentals like Airbnb or HomeAway.

Airbnb alone has more than 300 listings in Tulsa, but the zoning code classifies them as bed and breakfasts, which require a permit to operate. Going without one means a steep fine if caught.

Councilor Ben Kimbro said asking each short-term rental owner to request a special exception is cumbersome.

"Going through Board of Adjustment, which is a fairly expensive and arduous process, a time-consuming process, I don't think is a right fit for this type of rental operation," Kimbro said.

Kimbro and Councilor Blake Ewing held two town halls this week for input on a potential ordinance. They’ve also looked at other cities’ regulations, met with a hotel group and reached out to Airbnb.

Ewing said the ideal solution will make home-sharing companies responsible for following regulations.

"And if they don't, then we know where to go," Ewing said. "I don't think we want to be tracking down hotel and motel tax payments from every individual in town who's operating one of these home-sharing situations."

Ewing said the industry group he and Kimbro met with are fine with making it easier to operate short-term rentals if they're subject to the same 5 percent tax as hotels and motels.

In Oklahoma, Airbnb already collects state and local sales tax, state lodging tax and Oklahoma City's 5.5 percent hotel and motel tax.

Ewing and Kimbro are also trying to address concerns of people living near short-term rentals, like noise and property value impacts.

A few short-term rental hosts said they have more control over those properties than landlords for long-term rentals. Janet Mobbs offered listings on VRBO for eight years and said she always vetted her guests.

"And they would tell me, 'I'm coming for the Arabian horse show. I'm going to be here for two weeks. I have, you know, six horses and I want to be close to the fairgrounds.' So, I had all their information, their credit card number, their farm name," Mobbs said. "So, I think those concerns are unfounded."

Ewing and Kimbro haven't set a timeline for their short-term rentals ordinance.