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St. Louis assessor welcomes regulations on short-term rentals, Airbnb

Danny Wicentowski
St. Louis City Assessor Michael Dauphin

Short-term rentals operate largely without regulation in St. Louis. That means even when units are rented to guests who engage in violence, including use of guns, or host out-of-control parties, the city has few options beyond seeking out the owners and requiring that they register the rental units as a business.

Business registration does bring a hefty tax increase. Michael Dauphin, who has served as St. Louis’ assessor since 2018, says an owner could see their residential tax rate of 19% increase to 33%, and that’s not including “a commercial surcharge that goes with commercial classification.”

St. Louis City Assessor Michael Dauphin.
St. Louis City Assessor Michael Dauphin.

“We’re looking for non-owner-occupied, single-family units that are available for rental for less than 30 days,” Dauphin told St. Louis on the Air. “What we see a lot of is absentee owners who are renting on the platform [and renting] the unit for one night, and from there, problems can certainly occur.”

At a time when city leaders have publicly backed policies intended to aid renters, multiple incidents in the past year involving units rented through Airbnb and Vrbo have brought scrutiny on short-term rentals in St. Louis. Without regulations to enforce, Dauphin said his staff has resorted to investigating units listed on the platforms to determine their address and whether their use constitutes a business.

“We try not to look at it as punishment as much as, ‘What is the use of that property, and how should we classify it?’” he said Tuesday. “When it comes to the short-term rentals that are being used full time, we just think that they should be taxed like any other small-business owner in the city of St. Louis.”

The issue is also likely to hit the agenda of the Board of Aldermen. In May, Ward 4 Alderman Bret Narayan introduced two bills to regulate short-term rentals. The legislation was referred to a committee and is expected to be reintroduced as a new bill to the full board in the coming weeks.

In an interview Monday with St. Louis on the Air, Narayan said about 40 changes have been proposed to his original bill.

“In order for the legislation to ultimately be successful, we were going to have to look at the residents overall of the city of St. Louis; we’re going to have to look at short-term rental operators; and we're going to have to look at the platforms themselves,” Narayan said. “And the platforms themselves [is] probably the most controversial part of it. But it's important to note that we needed buy-in from the platforms if we’re ever going to enforce anything that we’re going to do here, since the platforms keep the specific addresses.”

To hear more from St. Louis Assessor Michael Dauphin and Alderman Bret Narayan, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast or by clicking the play button below.

Listen to Michael Dauphin on "St. Louis on the Air."

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."