I have been doing Airbnb which allows me to rent out rooms from a private home, it’s a Bungalow. for extra income which has helped me in these economically difficult times. My place is in a residential neighborhood in the northwest of Chicago. Many people have asked me about my experiences and what is going on. From how I started and now the legal issues I’m having with the city of Chicago. If you want to sign up with airbnb or have questions just ask. Here is my profile.
I had many wonderful guests from using Airbnb. I also guests visit from CouchSurfing, friends and relatives stay with me at times also. This is about what happened to me recently as a neighbor complained to the city and what I did.
These are my own personal experiences of what I heard, found, experienced in doing Airbnb, if you have any thing to add please contact me.
In Chicago as other place around the world Airbnb is becoming very popular and not fully legal run by most hosts in many cases. Why do I say not fully legal is because of the following few reasons:
To be fully legal and legit one has to do the following in some things.
Airbnb has been collecting taxes since Feb of 2015 before this no hotel taxes were being collected in Chicago. I don’t think the city was very happy.
Seems in terms of taxes purposes it’s legit in Chicago. Not many places collect the Hotel taxes so that can be an issue but the list is growing as cities are collecting this more and more. People are making money on this and paying income tax so income is great for people to supplement their income and more taxes for the city.
2 License Not everyone registers with the city not tells their landlords. This is where it becomes an issue.
Homes: To run Airbnb in Chicago in ones home the homes needs to be registered as a Bed and Breakfast (B&B). To get a B&B license the house needs to be zoned in the City of Chicago.
One can find what zone the property is in two ways
1 Check it out on the website
2 Go to the Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
This is what happened in my Case
At various times, I had some Airbnb guests, Couchsurfing guests (my profile which you can only see my profile is if you have an account), friends or relatives stay over. At this particular time a guest I forgot which group they were in asked me if he could go out and take some photos of the neighborhood. I replied “Sure go ahead.”
He came back shortly after telling me a neighbor was screaming at him. I said what exactly happened. He said that he was just taking photos of flowers in front of peoples yards. I said don’t worry about it and theguest left the following day.
In a few days a neighbor, who my guest had apparently met and who was taking photos of his flowers, came up to me and was very upset. Telling me “Why are you running a hotel. He stepped on my property and taking photo of my flowers!!!” He didn’t seem to pleased. I was not in the mood that day at that time and did not particularly want to hear someone yelling at me.
I said your property? Where did he exactly walk on? He said his grass in his front of his lawn. I know perfectly well this is public property no laws were broken. He then told me that my guest took photos of his flowers that were in front of his lawn, again I do not think any laws were broken. I told him if any laws was broken then he should immediately call the police. I was again not in the mood and walked away because I was not in the mood of someone yelling at me.
The following week a building inspector came to my place and said that if I am running a bed and breakfast. I replied no. I was doing Airbnb, had couchsurfing guest and friends visiting me. He said that I needed a license. It was news to me at the time.
About a week or so I got a letter from the city and a Court date and if I did not stop I would be fined $200 a day. I immediately cancelled my reservations that I had because I didn’t want to be fined. I kept people in my house that would stay over 31 days because that would fall under the rules of roommate and not in violation of this letter and court.
I found the rules that in the city of Chicago there are two kinds of people who rent 31 days and under they are considered transient and over 31 days they are in another group. The letter I got defined it as people under 31 days and under.
I went to court on the court date and when I spoke to the lawyer form the city they said the fine was $1,000 and I can pay it. I said no I won’t and want and would like to get a lawyer. I ask for a continuance (an extension) for time for me to get a lawyer. They granted it for Nov of 2015. When I left the court I turn to close the door and found my neighbor behind me. I was surprised and said. Good to see you. How are you? He looked at me angrily and said agrily “You will see more of me!!!”. I knew I had made a good friend that will follow me in my Journey. 🙂
I went to the city to find out what can be done and got denied with the zoning because my house is in a R3 residential. Zoning codes determine what you can do in that zone. I went to my aldermans office and asked if I can get rezoned someone at their office said that they are not open to that idea of rezoning or allowing bed and breakfast.
When I spoke to a few people at Airbnb I believe their legal section. They would only said their information is online and to check it. I believe they want to get more involved as it would get messy for them. They were polite but could not or would not give legal advice. As the burden is on me to find out if it’s legal.
I heard from a few people that some got letters from city and closed their account. I told a few friends about my problem with the city and they closed their account, but a good number of friends and people that I know did not get a permit and are just doing it. As it’s reported on many websites a very small fraction of Airbnb hosts in Chicago have the permit to do this and the city is collecting taxes. The hosts just do it under the radar of the city only shut down if a person complains. The listing are in plain site on the Airbnb listing I read somewhere over 3,000 and the city collects tax and nobody does anything.
The benefits are the following
1 The city collects hotel tax
2 The government collects income tax
3 People can make extra money to afford to stay in their homes, a form of neighborhood stabilization. Many homes because of this is not being foreclosed
4 People are using this money to fix up their homes
5 People who visit truly see how Chicago neighborhoods are and get a sense where to live when they visit instead of just downtown areas.6 Money is spent more then if people stayed at a hotel they stay longer and in tern spend more.
I have a few options
1 Find a lawyer and see what my options are for court and the fine.
2 See what I can do with zoning
Some background Info
Meet up like minded people in airbnb
Benefits of airbnb
economic stability for home owners extra income
neighbor stabilization and development
people who live in neighborhood can spend it in that neighborhood
People of interest contact me and I can share their contact info and Third party business growing connected to airbnb they post on fb. A bunch of property management companies are helping manage people property on airbnb
If business are not allowed in the house why is day care center allowed in the house and not airbnb traffic and community impact is similar
There are several way of doing airbnb legally
Bed and Breakfast or Vacation Rental
Can check if zoned and see to get a license
Dept of business affair and consumer protection
city hall room 800
121 n lasalle st
chicago il 60602-1288
get a license
There are zoning issues
Initially got court date on Sept 2015 and got it moved to Nov 4, 2015
need help here
In the News
Chicago Reader 10/27/15