Newton Passes Ordinance Taxing Short Term Rentals

Owners of short-term rentals will now required to pay a tax to the state and complete a registration process in order to continue their work, according to an ordinance passed by the Newton City Council on Sept. 3. It will go into effect on Oct. 15.

The ordinance allows homeowners to rent out rooms in their houses for an unlimited number of nights, but limits the amount of guests to nine people. All renters must live in their homes for at least nine months out of the year, and the resolution only permits homeowners to rent out up to three bedrooms at a time. If a homeowner wanted to rent out up to five rooms, she would need to obtain a special permit. 

Renting out over five rooms at a time would make the property a “hotel” under the new ordinance, and is never permitted. The ordinance also prohibits any parties or events from taking place in rentals. No renters will be “grandfathered” in and allowed to bypass any of these requirements. 

There are approximately 100 to 150 people currently renting out their homes and private properties in Newton. The Council began addressing the matter earlier in the year following a law passed in 2018 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that dictated terms for short-term rental operators. 

The ordinance is an attempt to prevent people from buying property in Newton solely as a commercial enterprise. The large majority of problems that have arisen in the past concerning short-term rentals have been associated with homes that were purchased commercially, said Susan Albright, a Newton city councilor on the zoning and planning committee. This measure protects residents from surging housing costs in Newton, and aims to prohibit corporations from having too much influence in the housing market, she said. 

“Lots of people use these short-term rentals for events at Boston College like graduation and parent’s weekend, and we’re glad to keep that going,” Albright said. 

Albright, as well as other members of the council, were surprised by the large quantity of Newton residents renting out their homes, she said. She was also unaware of the number of people who use Airbnb and other short-term rental methods as income sources—although she knows one man who has been successfully renting out bedrooms in his Newton property for more than 20 years. 

“The income people get from these rentals allows them to stay in Newton,” Albright said. 

This ordinance will support renters in continuing their work, while also preserving the quiet enjoyment of neighborhoods in Newton, she said.

A similar law was passed by the state last December, according to The Boston Globe. Investors and tenants are now barred from renting out their rooms on websites such as Airbnb, while homeowners are allowed. Airbnb hosts must register with the city under the new guidelines, and are assigned a registration number that they must post online under a newly added Airbnb function, according to The Boston Globe. Airbnb recently settled its lawsuit with Boston over the changes, the Globe reported.

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