Airbnb – illegal short-term rentals galore

by Joe Zekas on 7/25/11

A current New York Times article focuses on owners who rent out their apartments – or one or more bedrooms – to strangers on a short-term basis.

According to the Times article Airbnb, an online service: “which says it is handling 10,000 guests a night, is at the center of a boom in new companies that are creating a market for places to stay — a spare room, a house when the owners are on vacation or even a backyard treehouse.”

A quick search of Airbnb in the Chicago area turns up rentals that range from luxury homes and condos to RVs and boats. It’s a fairly safe bet that few of the listed rentals have obtained the vacation rental or bed and breakfast license required by the City of Chicago.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

nwzimmer July 25, 2011 at 9:39 AM

Interesting article.

Are city ordinances that require licensing or restrict this altogether on solid legal ground? I would wonder if it’s legal to prevent an owner from allowing whoever he wants stay at his place.

For example, I have friends stay at my place all the time, however they don’t pay me for it.


Joe Zekas July 25, 2011 at 10:03 AM


There’s no question about the legality of restricting commercial use of homes.

If you look at what the city bars as “home occupations” under other ordinances you might be shocked – fortune tellers, for example


hellooooo July 25, 2011 at 12:18 PM

the relevant Chicago ordinances are pretty clear– airbnb (ie paid) = you’re supposed to be licensed/remit taxes, (ie free) = no worries.

I’m just surprised that given the cash problems of the city, City Hall isn’t cracking down on this.


Fred July 25, 2011 at 1:10 PM


The point of the ordinance to to prevent short term leases as a business, not restrict personal guests. The ordinance does not prevent you from having personal friends crashing at your place, it is to prevent people with income properties from doing short term leases (using the space like a hotel).


Joe Zekas July 28, 2011 at 12:13 AM

An Airbnb user had her home completely trashed by a renter.


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