In New Orleans, all “short-term rentals” are not created equally

At the New Orleans District C Community Meeting on Wednesday, 9/7/11, I asked Mayor Mitch Landrieu the following question:

In the French Quarter, one of the biggest threats to the residential base is the proliferation of illegal short-term rentals. What action will the city’s Administration take to stem this tide and enforce the laws on the books? This is a potential revenue stream for our cash-strapped city. These operations don’t pay the hotel/motel taxes and they undercut legitimate hotels and bed & breakfasts. They reduce the availability of rental units for people who wish to reside in this neighborhood.

Mayor Landrieu somehow missed answering this question during his hour of otherwise meticulous responses; as he was wrapping up the meeting, he asked if there was anything he’d not replied to, and I called out “Short-term rentals!” He replied hastily, “That’s an enforcement issue, right? We’ll get to it.”

The following story appeared in the Times-Picayune on Sunday, 9/10/11: Mitch Landrieu ally snagged in crackdown on illegal short-term rentals

It’s a significant problem in the French Quarter, Tremé, and the Faubourg Marigny, and one glance at the Craigslist posts advertising “vacation rentals” will confirm that the problem is a city-wide issue.

On my block of Governor Nicholls Street, there are at least four illegal short-term rentals operating — some frequently, others intermittently. My apartment is literally book-ended by two: one is an apartment with a balcony that is rented sporadically for events such as Jazz Fest and the Red Dress Run weekend; the other is a slave quarters that is rented regularly for weekend and event stays. I’m reasonably certain that both could easily be rented as regular apartments with year-round tenancy.

This is a wholly residential block. I’d much rather have full-time neighbors who would be eligible to register to vote locally instead of a revolving door parade of weekend & festival out-of-town party people, particularly since the neighbor who offers the more frequent rental isn’t often in the main house on weekends and doesn’t have to deal with his “guests,” and occasional renters of the balcony apartment are often somehow unable to distinguish Governor Nicholls Street from Bourbon Street.

This issue was covered extensively by local media six months ago during March 2011:

Critics call on New Orleans to enforce rules against illegal guesthouses

Groups pushing city to crackdown on illegal home, apartment rentals

(The WWL story was a direct result of my sending in a list of a dozen Craigslist ads appearing over a two-week period and a website link for the slave quarter short-term rental to the station asking why the city didn’t investigate such blatant advertising of illegal rentals.)

City Hall’s response to these two stories was an unhappy one; the organizations & individuals involved were basically raked over the coals for not “working with” the city’s Administration and instead going to the media. However (to the best of my awareness),  there still is no procedure in place for enforcing the “no rentals less than 60 days” in French Quarter or “no rentals less than 30 days” in the rest of the city.

Finally, I offer this for your consideration: The “Film New Orleans” Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy offers private residence short-term rentals for use by film & crew personnel without posting a general notation regarding the city’s laws regarding applicable length-of-stay requirements (it seems to be up to the advertiser to note the relevant limitation).

Using this list of available rentals as an example, is there a way for privately-owned residential short-term rentals to operate legally in the French Quarter (and city-wide), or not? It’s been my observation that most film crews rarely stay in our city for two-month stretches of time. If these rentals are operating legally and with the city Administration’s blessing, why isn’t this option available to private homeowners wishing to rent on a short-term basis for other purposes? And if such a mechanism does exist to permit legal short-term rentals, why are the limitation laws still on the books?

Michelle Krupa noted the following in the most recent Times-Picayune story regarding this issue:

Landrieu’s top aide in March said city officials weren’t likely to crack down on ordinary residents who rent out their homes during tourist events, opting instead to focus on unregistered proprietors who regularly rent rooms or apartments under the guise of legitimate hotels.

In contrast, it seems that our Mayor’s lecture at the meeting earlier this week has diminished significance, as it appears that the decisions being made by our city’s Administration regarding how these laws are being enforced continue to be consistently arbitrary:

When the city does start cracking down on enforcement of the laws, Landrieu warned, it will be “across the board.” So, he concluded, quoting his mother, “Be careful what you ask for.”

Either the laws regarding short-term rentals currently on the books need to change in a way that replaces the lost revenue generated by the hotel/motel tax and provides legitimacy and protection for the guests staying at these private residences, or the existing laws need to be enforced consistently.

11 thoughts on “In New Orleans, all “short-term rentals” are not created equally

  1. Yes, Luna,

    When the city does start cracking down on enforcement of the laws, Landrieu warned, it will be “across the board.” So, he concluded, quoting his mother, “Be careful what you ask for.”

    Be careful what we ask for. There are a lot of local laws that need to be changed before they should be enforced.

    I wonder how this would affect the rentals. I have been wanting to get a place in the Quarter, but ended up uptown where I got pre-katrina pricing. The Marigny has gone up in price the past couple of years–(due to Treme? & Gentrification… or just inflation & demand) The quarter didn’t seem to go up after katrina but I have seen some of the lower independent rental prices go up by 20% in the last 3 years.

    I was warned about the quarter. I was told that many landlords would offer a low price only to raise it a few months later assuming you would not move once you settled in. I also was told to watch out because they would ask you to leave before festival season so they could rent it for more.

    3 years ago, I asked one lady at least for a one year term, and she was like we only do monthly. But “not to worry, want stability, and won’t be raising rates” ok then give me a lease “Sorry, this is the way we’ve always done it.” In a city where people move out after 9 months (i.e. for the summer), you would think they would want someone to guarantee they would stay through the slow seasons too.

    Of course, the level playing ground. I would not mind people renting their places on occasion if they lived there most the time. Heck that might be the only way I could afford a place in the quarter. After all during Jazz fest, Voodoo fest, Mardi Gras, and possibly a few others BCS, etc. the hotels are at essentially 100%, and we need more placed for people to stay, but combined with the slow seasons, more hotels are not coming.

    P.s. talking about equal enforcement, when was the last time you saw a car get ticketed for passing a biker dangerously close or doing some other unsafe maneuvers near them? Kinda encourages bikers to go the wrong way — I believe its unsafe, and don’t do it, but after being hit enough, I know plenty of people who go the wrong way just to see what’s coming. Heck ticketing for driving down the street when its a pedestrian mall is also unjustified when its empty, and safe to do so. Heck in the quarter there are 3 or 4 continuous streets you can’t drive down – That’s 5 blocks Burgundy and N Peters going from canal, and Decatur and Dauphine going to Canal — That’s especially bad when all those other roads are closed to cars forcing more traffic to other streets. Decatur/N Peters is already crazy busy, and Burgundy/Dauphine means crossing Bourbon.

  2. “That’s an enforcement issue, right? We’ll get to it.” This is Mitch’s Mantra. I am grateful for your post. I’m glad there is the possibility of a ground-swell of people who are beginning to call Landrieu on his lack of leadership, specifically, his lack of autonomous leadership. Landrieu does not have the big view of New Orleans and the honest and real needs of citizens and tourists alike. Landrieu is flagrant in his lack of uniformity in addressing real enforcement issues. This is because he supports the business wants and needs of his “team players.” Landrieu has yet to be exposed in his first and foremost emphasis in rewarding the business needs of those “on his team.” Landrieu has given, and will continue to lavish favor upon, high priority business whims, wants, and needs of Landrieu friendly people of influence. This, unless obstacles are put in Landriue’s path, he will continue to targeting the most benign issues as “threats” to tourists and residents if they merely annoy those to whom he grants favor. The history of corruption in this city continues. The supposed 82% favorable poll reported by the Times Picayune did not cite a reputable source of those numbers, thus NOT! validating the results. Mitch Landrieu is another verse in the long song of non-transparency and anti-integrity in city government in New Orleans. On the news tonight, Landrieu refused to allow black members of the NAACP into a “public” meeting on crime. The echoes heard as he spoke rang of the poorly attended “meeting,” by design, of Landrieu the autocrat. And that is what our government in New Orleans is, an autocracy. When is someone going to stand up and prevent another term of Landrieu’s destructive management of our city?

  3. I get asked that question a lot about short terms rentals and what can I do. Being a real estate agent I tell them that the city has 60 day minimum stays and most condos have limits of 60,90, and even 6 months and explain why this is. Most of the large condo associations have cracked down on this in the past 2 years. Lets hope it improves.

  4. Pingback: Enforcement vs. Culture: Winning the battle while losing the war? « NOLAFemmes

  5. The example link posted above in this comments thread was removed; the advertisement noted clearly stated “60 DAY MINIMUM,” which indicates that this particular rental unit is being offered in compliance with the legal restrictions applying to short-term rentals operating within the French Quarter.

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