Illegal Hotels: Washington, D.C. Edition

D.C.’s bustling Dupont Circle area has many interesting hotel options – but book a room at DuPont Place, and you’ll find yourself in an illegal hotel that may not be safe.

DuPont Place is just one example of many in a network of illegal hotels that have been propped up by the Airbnb platform.

What Undercover Investigators Found at DuPont Place

In part one in our series of undercover investigations, AirbnbWATCH found that rooms at this illegal hotel pose serious fire safety hazards, including bars on the windows, no sprinkler system, expired fire extinguishers, doors that are not rated for fire safety, in addition to having no access for disabled guests.

No legal hotel is able to ignore common-sense safety regulations like this, and illegal hotels should not be able to flout the law at the expense of consumers and communities.

In fact, a recent poll found that an overwhelming 87% of Americans agree: short-term rental sites should be subject to the same fire and safety regulations as hotels, and over 70% said commercial operators should be required to provide access for the disabled in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Corporate Bad Actors Driving Airbnb’s Growth

Airbnb likes to talk about mom and pop renting their basement to make ends meet. Yet, the reality is that a large and growing proportion of Airbnb’s hosts are commercial operators, renting out multiple units, year-round, just like a hotel, while skirting taxes and many of the basic safety and zoning regulations all other lodging businesses must abide by for the safety and security of guests and neighborhoods.

Recently, Buzzfeed reported that Inside Airbnb found over 100 hosts on Airbnb who list more than 100 sites, and 39 of them who list over 200 sites a piece. According to a 2017 study by CBRE, in DC alone, 77% of rentals on Airbnb were entire-home rentals, and “hosts” with 20+ units grabbed nearly a quarter of multi-unit revenue. That’s not home sharing.

These are corporate players who are scamming the system and operating illegal hotels in your neighborhood, at your expense. Commercial hosts take housing stock out of an already tight market, thereby raising rents and exacerbating the affordable housing crisis in the District.

Dupont Circle’s illegal hotel is one of many thriving commercial schemes enabled by Airbnb’s willful law breaking. Illegal hotels are not good for consumers or communities, and yet Airbnb doesn’t care so long as it’s getting paid.

This is part one in a series of investigations in cities nationwide exposing the dangers of illegal hotels. Stay tuned.

Click here to see the warning signs of an illegal hotel in your neighborhood.