San Luis Obispo County residents who rent out their homes to tourists online will no longer be able to avoid paying occupancy taxes.
Officials worked out an agreement with Airbnb — which allows residents to rent out rooms or entire houses to guests through an online platform — to make sure renters in unincorporated areas of the county pay transient occupancy taxes (TOT), fees that are also applied to hotels and other lodging providers.
Airbnb will now collect 9 percent TOT fees and other assessments directly from renters and transmit them to the county, according to a county news release.
Renters who use other sites, such as VRBO, to advertise their rooms or houses will still need to calculate and pay their own taxes and assessments, said Gordon Eiland, division manager for the Treasury and Tax Collection Division of the county Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office.
Officials use TOT fees to fund various services, such as law enforcement and road maintenance.
“This agreement will help ensure that everyone is playing by the same rules and paying the same taxes,” said James Erb, the county’s auditor-controller, in a statement. “Lodging operators renting rooms and properties through Airbnb will be paying the same taxes that other operators are required to pay.”
The county has ordinances governing vacation rentals in Cambria, Cayucos, Avila Beach and the North County Adelaida region, but none that covers the entire unincorporated inland area. Even so, all renters are required to register with the county and receive business licenses.
In the coastal area and Adelaida, there are rules regarding how vacation rental properties can be used and how many can be permitted in a specific area. That’s not the case in other unincorporated areas of the county.
Airlin Singewald, a senior county planner, said planning staff may receive additional direction on an overall county vacation rental ordinance in October.
The Airbnb deal is officials’ latest effort to bring unpermitted vacation rentals into compliance. The county in September hired San Francisco-based Host Compliance to track down such rentals in unincorporated areas by scouring online platforms.
At that time, Host Compliance had identified more than 450 potentially unlicensed properties countywide, many of them in Cambria and Cayucos.
“The whole purpose of that is to make it fair for everybody,” Eiland said. “Everybody plays by the same rules.”