PHOTOS: Remarkable Seattle Homes In A Sharing Economy

Jul 28, 2014

“Sharing” has become a popular suffix in the news these days, mostly in regards to transportation like ridesharing and bikesharing. Your living spaces can now get in on the action with sites like Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner, which allow you to rent out your home or a room for short stays.

There are more than 4,000 short term rentals available in Washington state, but unlike the rideshare industry, Airbnb and VRBO remain unregulated in Seattle.

Evan Loeffler, an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant relations and real estate litigation, spoke with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds about some rules to abide by when using a short term rental site.

The Owner

Own your own home? You’re in luck.

“Generally, when you buy property, you have the right to do whatever you want with it: you can tear down the house, you can live on it, you can drill for oil, you can rent it out,” Loeffler said.

There’s a few catches though. Your property might come with easements – restrictions on what you can build on the property or if you really can drill for oil. You’ll also want to check with your home owners association to make sure it’s OK, Loeffler said.

For those in condos or apartments, particularly if you are a renter and not an owner, your landlord will probably need to approve any kind of subletting. Most leases come with these types of restrictions according to Loeffler.

As far as taxes go, Loeffler said there probably isn’t a way for the city or county to track short-term rentals like they would if someone were opening up a hostel and had applied for a business license. However, he recommended claiming the income on your federal returns.

The Customer

If you’re looking into snatching up a cheaper stay in a cool city, there are few things to consider.

“It is a risk – they’re not licensed the same way a hotel operator might be. They don’t have the same accountability to the public and I doubt that someone down the block who’s renting out a bedroom is going to be on Yelp, so I can’t really find out if they run a good, clean place or if there are rats and roaches in there,” Loeffler said.

He said the best way to protect yourself as a patron on one of these sites is to not rely on the website – ask questions of the owner directly and draw up your own agreement with them.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.