Local Airbnb hosts finding ways to fill empty suites

SEATTLE -- The month of May in Seattle is traditionally a busy travel period with out-of-town families coming in for college graduations, traveling for business purposes and the start of the tourist season.

The summer peaks are when Airbnb hosts were accustomed to raking it in.

“We were all booked up,” said Scott Weaver. “April and May was full of people. We were ready to go and then along came the lockdown and the guests just all disappeared overnight.”

Instead, Weaver chose to shutdown his two Airbnb properties and is turning to long-term tenants for the next year.

His 300-square-foot basement suite is booked for the next three months by a traveling nurse. Her rent is $1,200 a month.

On Airbnb, that same suite brought in about $3,500 a month during the summer travel season.

“It hurts but we get by fine,” said Weaver. “For a lot of Airbnb hosts, it is a significant portion of their income.”

To add to the worries of the nearly nonexistent Airbnb market, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that extends protections to tenants from eviction. That timeline is six months after the emergency moratorium that is currently dated to last until June 4.

“You cannot evict for six months, so you can have somebody who stops paying you rent in May and you won’t be able to evict them until December, but wait, the city enacted an ordinance last year that says you can’t evict during the winter time,” said Weaver.

In Weaver’s case, he can be selective about who he chooses to fill his vacancies. He’s gotten offers on a second suite on Dexter Avenue in Seattle that he just couldn’t agree to take the chance on.

“I might’ve actually considered him because I liked him. He was a really nice guy he seemed genuine. He had a bad period and I told him, I said there’s no way. I cannot take on the risk right now of putting you into my unit because if you stop paying rent it's six, ten months until I can get you out,” said Weaver.

City officials said tenants who can’t pay rent have to prove financial hardships and will continue to incur debt.

Instead of placing the burden on landlords, Weaver said the City of Seattle could’ve offered tenants subsidies or grant funding for housing.

City officials discussed exemptions for landlords who manage fewer than four properties, which was not added to the ordinance.

“You’re going to have hosts that can’t pay their mortgages, and again you’re going to have businesses that disappear overnight,” said Weaver.

Weaver said the Airbnb income is supplemental for him, unlike other property owners who hosted full-time on the popular travel booking app.