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Airbnb hosts could have two rentals, no more, under Seattle proposal

Seattle may regulate Airbnb, VRBO and other short term rentals by next year. The Seattle City Council discussed a new proposal Wednesday, after the vacation industry opposed earlier versions.

City Council members are concerned vacation rentals are taking units out of the housing market.

Under the proposal, people could operate a maximum of two short term rentals, whether they post their rentals through Airbnb-type sites, or privately. Existing hosts in some urban centers would be exempt.

At this week's meeting, a handful of rental hosts showed up to support the plan. Michelle Acquavella at Sea To Sky Rentals helps people manage their vacation units.

Acquavella: "A regulation that allows for up to two short term rental permits allows all of my owners to continue to operate their short term rentals. These rentals serve a unique clientele, including patients receiving medical treatment and family members of local residents who want to stay near their family in the neighborhoods."

The council has proposed regulations before, but those conversations fizzled out. Earlier versions would have limited how many nights a year people could rent out a unit and require that one rental be in the host's primary home.

Under the regulations, hosts would need to pay a fee, be licensed by the city, and operate no more than two vacation units.

There's some hesitation within the City Council. Councilmember Mike O'Brien said there's nothing that prevents a couple, for example, from listing their names separately and having four rentals.

O'Brien: "I want to be really careful that if everyone's going to know how to get around it, then I think either we should say, look we can't regulate it, or we need to go back and figure out how we can actually regulate it and enforce it."

The council doesn't expect to take final action until December at the earliest.