CHICAGO — WGN Investigates looks into the popular trend of online vacation rentals. The city has found that thousands of people are breaking the law by running unlicensed Airbnbs. Right now, Airbnb estimates that there are 4,500 hosts in the Chicago area. The city believes that only about 200 of them are licensed to operate.
A team of three inspectors took WGN along as they hunted for unlicensed locations. There are requirements to obtain the $250 license, like owning the property, meeting safety guidelines and living in areas that are zoned to allow vacation rentals. In an effort to crack down on Airbnbs, a group of aldermen introduced an ordinance to tighten and better define restrictions. The ordinance is sitting in the Rules Committee for now.
Airbnb does post the licensing requirements on their website but don’t require proof of a license to operate. The online company canceled an on-camera interview with WGN at the last minute. They sent us a statement that says, “we ask all of our hosts to comply with local law and provide information in our Help Center.”
The city’s Department of Finance says for the first time this year they received a tax payment of $2.1 million from Airbnb. That means hosts are paying the same tax as other hotels.