In a Thursday committee meeting, New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits Director Tammie Jackson told City Council members that the city had collected $408,000 in short-term rental fines since 2019 and had delisted 270 rental listings from short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO.
Jackson also reported that the city would ramp up short-term rental enforcement starting in May and that the department was currently receiving over 100 applications for STR licenses per week.
Jackson’s presentation was meant to alleviate recent confusion around STR enforcement statistics reported by The Lens, based on incomplete records from the city. The article incorrectly reported that of about $68,000 in fines levied from early 2019 to early 2021, only $1,500 had been collected. The reported numbers on assessed fines and collections were both significantly lower than the true figures, which The Lens reported after obtaining complete records from the city. (The original report has been removed from The Lens’ website but has been archived as a PDF, with an editor’s note attached.)
The second set of records provided by the city showed that, among fines levied from January 2019 to January 2021, about $190,000 was collected. The total collected since 2019 was more than $400,000 if you included fines levied in years prior.
“Thank you for this opportunity to comment and set the record straight,” Jackson said on Thursday.
The overall response from council members was similar to what it was during a presentation from earlier this year: The city needs to be doing more to enforce the short-term rental rules that went into effect in December 2019.
“I think all of us are saying the same thing, which is enforcement is an important piece now that the rules have been revised,” said Councilman Joe Giarrusso.
At the previous presentation, in March, Jackson appeared to suggest that short-term rental fine collections were far higher.
“The grand total of fines paid between January 2019 to January 2021 is nearly $1,000,000,” the presentation said.
Some local media and at least one City Council member were under the impression that the $1 million figure referred to just short-term rental fines. But that wasn’t true. Though the March presentation was primarily about short-term rental enforcement, the city later told The Lens that the number referred to all adjudicated fines. On Thursday, Jackson clarified that the true amount of fines collected on short-term rental enforcement alone was $408,000.
On Thursday, Councilwoman Kristin Palmer noted that the council had set a budget for two attorneys dedicated to short-term rental enforcement. Palmer asked Jackson to name those attorneys, but she could only name one.
“The other attorney, we’re working on that,” Jackson said.
Both Palmer and Giarrusso said that those positions could pay for themselves with heightened enforcement, through greater fine collections and property taxes from homestead exemption revocations. Homestead exemptions can be revoked if the city determines that a property owner does not use a licensed short-term rental property as their primary residence.
Jackson said her office had revoked 36 fraudulent homestead exemptions related to STR enforcement.
“I’ve received the overall consensus: do better,” Jackson said.
Jackson said that starting in May, the city would be holding a full day of short-term rental adjudication hearings — nine hearings per day — once a month. She said the once a month goal was just a minimum, and that the department hoped to commit more days to the hearings. She also said she was working with the Department of Finance to subscribe to a service to help monitor online rental listings.