Spokane waits to decide on Bed and Breakfast dispute




Posted on March 29, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Updated Saturday, Mar 29 at 9:53 AM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Local business owners are weighing in after the City of Spokane decided to let unlicensed bed and breakfasts operate without penalty through Aug. 1. City officials said they needed time to study the issue.

MORE: City leaders reviewing short-term stays in residential areas

The city had been fining people who were operating rooms for rent in their homes through the website ‘Airbnb.’ Officials said unlicensed bed and breakfasts were not paying lodging taxes and were taking away business from local hotels.

City code says you must have a license if a guest rents your home for less than 30 days. Those rules apply to single-family and two-family residential homes.  The only exceptions in a residential area are bed and breakfasts and historic homes classified under the adaptive reuse ordinance.

Keith Kelley operates Lillie's Urban Oasis and is one of hundreds of people in Spokane who advertise their homes for short term stays on sites like Airbnb and VRBO.com. He said he believes there is room for him, hotels and traditional Bed and Breakfasts in Spokane. 

“Absolutely, there's a group of us endeavoring to work in a collegial spirit collaboratively with city officials to adopt a more progressive business friendly city code that would embrace this industry as it's existed for decades on end.”

Mary Moltke, the owner of traditional Bed and Breakfast Roberts Mansion is embracing that same spirit of cooperation.   
She said after she spoke to KREM 2 News about the issue in March she felt like public enemy number one amongst Airbnb users.

WATCH: Battle over ‘bed and breakfast’ brewing in Spokane
“I've had some negative things being said in a blog,” said Moltke, “people calling me and asking me, ‘are you the one turning everybody in?’ 

Moltke said websites like Airbnb were killing her business, and unlicensed bed and breakfasts were breaking the law.

“For one thing, I haven't turned a single person in on this, and I will still stand on what I said before that I think it's very important we have a level playing field,” said Moltke.

Moltke also said she wants all the businesses to thrive.

Meanwhile, Kelley said his operation is registered as a business with the state and the IRS.

“We pay federal taxes, state taxes and county taxes and if we could we'd pay the local lodging tax but there’s really no forum for us to do so at this point,” said Kelley.

City of Spokane officials said in the meantime, users of rental websites would still have to meet city codes like noise violations and health standards.