Bellevue scolds landlord after tenant rents home on Airbnb

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Because of the growing popularity of Airbnb, landlords might be breaking the law and not even realizing it.

Consider the case of Bellevue landlords Rhonda Benedict-Job and Jeannie Ahlsing. They’d been successfully renting out homes for decades, so they were surprised when they received complaints about one of their properties.

“The neighbors said it was kind of like a frat-house with young men out in the backyard, and making loud noises and up all night,” Benedict-Job said.

That didn’t sound like the renter they approved for the house. The landlords rented their house to a young woman, whom they had vetted. But that woman, however, turned around and rented out the home’s individual rooms through Airbnb.

The City of Bellevue accused the landlords of breaking local codes. City officials showed them photos of the home on the Airbnb website.

KIRO Radio found additional evidence of this allegation at the house itself. A woman who answered the door said she was not the primary renter, but one of four people who were renting individual rooms at the home. A young man confirmed that he found the house through an Airbnb ad, but said that the residents were all leaving at the end of the month.

Ahlsing said it was a good thing the renter had decided to end the lease, because the Airbnb traffic was hard on her neighbors, and her property.

“And besides, it’s illegal,” she said.

Airbnb and city codes

Carol Helland, code and policy director for the City of Bellevue, said “The city regulates transient lodging. Airbnb type lodging isn’t permitted in single family areas.”

Helland says homeowners can apply for permits to operate a bed and breakfast or boarding house. The city controls the number of homes that offer those short-term rentals.

“Most landlords who are reputable, rent for year-increments,” Helland explained. “That maintains the stability of those neighborhoods. We have families that get to know one another. We don’t have people coming in-and-out of the neighborhood that don’t view that area as their primary residence, so they treat it like they belong there, as opposed to like they’re staying in a hotel.”

Homeowners who violate the city’s land use code face fines of up to $500 per day. Owners can seek to evict problem tenants. Benedict-Job and Ahlsing say they’re avoiding both, now that their official renter is ending her lease. In this case, it’s a lesson learned.

Airbnb declined requests for an interview, but does note on its website that hosts must comply with local laws.

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