Truckee wants Airbnb to stop short-term rentals during stay-at-home orders

Popular winter travel destinations in Northern California have joined together in asking Airbnb to help stop short-term rentals through New Year's, based on the state of California's stay-at-home orders during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Placer County, El Dorado County and the town of Truckee sent a letter to the San Francisco company, asking that they cancel existing reservations and issue refunds.

"I would like to see them take a much more proactive role in working with their property owners," Truckee Town Councilmember David Polivy told KCRA. "I’d like to see them provide full refunds right up until the night of stay."

Polivy says Airbnb responded immediately with confirmation that they will ensure all homeowners are aware of the travel restrictions.

In a statement to KCRA, Airbnb said most listings allow for a full refund up to five days prior to the reservation. After that, a guest can request a refund from their host. The host must agree, then the guest can contact Airbnb customer service to process a refund.

Truckee council members voted unanimously Tuesday to increase penalties for homeowners who continue to operate short-term rentals. Prior to the vote, the focus was on educating those who violated the orders and issuing fines to repeat offenders, but Polivy said that may not have been enough.

"We really put the onus and the responsibility on the property owners," Polivy said. "We really believe that short-term rentals are a right and that they are a privilege as well in our community and we can revoke those privileges should the rules not be followed."

The vote in favor of increasing penalties means homeowners who continue to rent could have their short-term rental licenses revoked for the 2021 calendar year.

Those who live in Truckee, like Allison Stringfield, said visitors have a false sense of safety when thinking a rental home is still a good option.

"Airbnb kind of creates the idea of a safe place but as far as our town goes, we can’t accommodate that many people," Stringfield said.

Sacramento resident Katherine Magness has a different opinion when it comes to the area's safety.

"I would say in general it’s absolutely safe up here and everyone is literally with their families and sticking together and to me, there seems no reason why those types of properties shouldn't be available and certainly more safe than being in a hotel."

Truckee has just under 1,400 short term rentals.