July 14, 2016

Warren Joins Schatz in Urging FTC to Investigate Commercial Use of Short-Term Lodging Rental Services

Senators Raise Concerns Over Impact of Short-Term Lodging Market Including Housing Shortages and Rising Costs

Text of the letter is available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, today called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the commercial use of the rapidly expanding short-term lodging rental market. The letter, which was also signed by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), urges the FTC to study the commercial manner in which individuals or firms are using online services such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, and FlipKey to profit from short-term rentals, taking housing inventory off the market and driving up the cost of rent.

"We are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities. We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms. Furthermore, we are concerned that communities and consumers may be put at risk through violations of sensible health, safety, and zoning regulations under state and local law," the senators wrote. "In order to assess of the use and impact of the short-term rental market, we need reliable data on the commercial use of online platforms. We believe the FTC is best positioned to address this data gap in an unbiased manner and we urge the Commission to conduct a review of commercial operators on short-term rental platforms."

The letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez also raised concerns about recent data which revealed that commercial users in New York made up an outsized share of the revenue from short-term rentals and a vast majority of units violated state and local laws. The subpoenaed data along with recent housing disputes with these companies in cities like Honolulu and San Francisco underscore the immediate need for further study of this issue.

Read a PDF copy of the letter here