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Spring 2016, Spring 2016 Section 1, Tori Tackett, Your Name

Airbnb making waves in San Diego

More people are starting to put their sailboats and yachts up as short-term rentals on Airbnb. This additional rental option could advance boating access in the area and make boat ownership less expensive.


Mike Stanton shows how Airbnb guests are accommodated once they arrive for their stay. (Photo by Tori Tackett)

Founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a rental website where people looking for accommodations are connected with people who are renting their homes and spaces.

Among contemporary rental options such as houses or apartments, guests also have the option to choose from houseboats, sailboats or luxury yachts on Airbnb. Currently, the site has 32 boat rental options to choose from in the San Diego area.

Since the addition of boat rentals on Airbnb’s site, the Sun Harbor Marina has noticed some additional foot traffic.

Boater Experiences 

However, not everyone is on board with this new boat rental trend.

“I don’t think I could ever rent my boat out to complete strangers,” yacht owner Gill Moreau said. “I take pride in my boat and the thought of letting random people stay in it from time to time makes me uneasy … and I use my boat more often than most people so I don’t see the need.”

Airbnb host Frank Graham said he feels differently about the situation.

“For me, Airbnb has been a blessing,” Graham said. “I probably only get to use my boat about one month out of the year and the rest of the time it’s just sitting there. So far all of my guests have been kind and courteous and I like the money.”

The cost of maintaining a boat is just one of the factors that deters people from owning one in the first place. Now that boat owners are able to earn some extra money by renting out their vessels, the maintenance factor begins to diminish.

Boats exempt from certain taxes 

Web pic

According to Yacht Salesman Mike Stanton, about 30 percent of the boat owners live aboard their vessels. Here are some boats docked in Marina Village. (Photo by: Tori Tackett)

Unlike housing spaces on Airbnb, hosts who rent out their boats are not required to charge an extra fee for the transient occupancy tax, something that has been highly debated ever since Airbnb started listing in the San Diego area.

According to San Diego’s Office of the City Treasurer, the transient occupancy tax and tourism marketing district tax are only applicable to guests who stay less than a calendar month at a property.

Initially, issues arose because many Airbnb hosts failed to charge their guests the additional tourist taxes.

According to the city of San Diego, Airbnb hosts were expected to charge their guests the 10.5 percent transient occupancy tax as well as a 0.55 percent tourism marketing district tax. However, this was not always done.

Currently, the municipal code does not clearly define a short-term rental. However, there are some regulations that govern board-and-lodging dwellings, bed-and-breakfasts and rooming houses. There is nothing in the municipal code that mentions boats or yachts.

Some hosts were not aware of the tourist taxes and were uncertain about whether or not the municipal code defined their property as a “short-term rental.” Originally, the popular rental service did not include the tourist tax on the total amount of the bill.

Airbnb started collecting the tourist tax from visitors on behalf of their hosts in August of 2015.

The transient occupancy tax is charged in most states, which includes travelers in California who are renting for less than 30 days.

Other cities where Airbnb collects tourist taxes:

  • Chicago
  • Portland
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C.

A recent survey of occupancy taxes by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 20 states have lodging taxes that apply statewide.

Will boats eventually be taxed?

While the definition of a short-term rental in the city’s code is still being worked out, some can’t help but wonder if it will only be a matter of time before the city extends its “short-term rental” definition to one that includes boats and yachts.

Airbnb representative Thomas Cunnings said he thinks things will change soon.

“When Airbnb first started, hosts were exempt from these extra taxes, then sure enough cities got upset because ‘they were losing money,’” Cunnings said. “I think that sooner or later people will try to do the same thing with boats.”





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