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Town Targets Short-Term Rental Sites Like Airbnb

The city believes there are many properties that haven’t registered as short-term rentals and are, in turn, getting away without paying the 12-percent tax owed

By Samia Khan and Gadi Schwartz
|  Tuesday, May 13, 2014  |  Updated 8:18 PM EDT
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Scores of companies like Airbnb and Craigslist could be forced to reveal whether rental properties are paying a mandatory 12 percent tax. The crackdown is putting hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. Gadi Schwartz reports from Malibu for the NBC4 News at 11 on Monday, May 12, 2014.

Gadi Schwartz, Sean Browning

Scores of companies like Airbnb and Craigslist could be forced to reveal whether rental properties are paying a mandatory 12 percent tax. The crackdown is putting hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. Gadi Schwartz reports from Malibu for the NBC4 News at 11 on Monday, May 12, 2014.

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The city of Malibu may soon try to cash in on unpaid taxes from websites such as Airbnb and Craigslist that offer short-term rentals in the city.

Malibu currently collects approximately $1 million in Transient Occupancy Tax annually from hotels and motels, and an additional $225,000 from the short-term rental of private homes, according to a Malibu City Council report.

City officials said they believe there are many properties that haven’t registered as short-term rentals and are, in turn, getting away without paying the 12-percent tax owed. The city found 400 listings online, but only 20 of those were paying what they owed.

The city voted Monday to give the mayor power to issue subpoenas to websites that advertise short-term stays and to owners suspected of renting the properties.

The agenda lists more than 50 websites offering short-term private rentals in Malibu, including Airbnb.com, Craigslist.org, JetLuxuryresorts.com, TripAdvisor.com and vrbo.com.

"The City can use these subpoenas to investigate the nature of the problem and increase compliance with the City’s ordinance, potentially leading to several hundred thousand dollars of additional general fund revenue," the agenda stated.

Malibu has been enforcing the collection of TOT on the short-term rental of private homes since 2009.

The crackdown could be good news for long-term renters. Since the short-term rental craze began, Malibu renter Ryan Silverman said he’s seen long-term leases rise in price between $500 and $1,000.

Airbnb told NBC4 that the company has already launched a plan in Portland and San Francisco to make sure users are paying taxes.

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