CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection on Tuesday launched a new online portal to process registrations for shared housing such as Airbnb and HomeAway.

Under the new system, shared housing hosts must submit registration applications directly to BACP and receive approval before listing their homes for sharing.

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“Over the last four years, we have worked tirelessly to oversee the evolving shared housing industry within the limits of the previous regulations,” BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareño said in a news release. “This reform ordinance and the new portal will allow us to modernize the process, improve host registration data and enhance the City’s ability to hold problem actors accountable while preserving the innovation that is critical to this industry.”

In September 2020, the City Council passed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Shared Housing Reform Ordinance, which was intended to increase safety and accountability. Parts of the ordinance came into effect in the fall – including a ban on single-night rentals and increased enforcement authority for BACP.

“The home-sharing industry is an important part of our city, but up until today we have been limited in our ability to ensure responsible operations,” Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), Chairman of the Committee on License and Consumer Protection, said in the release. “With this new portal, Chicago can finally take the lead with strong and ground-breaking regulations that ensure safety, protect residents and maintain innovation within the industry.”

Before the portal was launched, shared housing hosts submitted their registration directly to Airbnb, HomeAway, and other such companies – who then submitted the information to BACP every two weeks. The result has been incomplete data and a lack of identifying information to support enforcement against problem locations, BACP said.

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With the new rules, applicants will have to submit information to BACP themselves and file a $125 registration fee.

Also, before the new rules were implemented, shared housing hosts were allowed to list and rent their units on services such as Airbnb before they got approval from BACP. This will no longer be allowed.

Also effective Tuesday, shared housing companies will pay a tiered licensing fee based on the size of their platforms. Before, there was a flat annual fee of $10,000, but now, intermediaries with one to 499 units will pay only $5,000 per year, those with 500 to 999 units will pay $7,500, and those with 1,000 or more will pay $10,000.

“This portal and the newly implemented ordinance will bring about much-needed change; for too long, communities have suffered from out of control ‘party houses,’ in my ward and throughout the city,” Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), co-sponsor of the reform ordinance, said in the release. “Chicago residents will now benefit from a new system that facilitates greater oversight of the shared housing industry and will improve quality of life throughout Chicago.”

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The more than 6,900 shared housing hosts in Chicago will be expected to use the new portal to renew their registration once their current registration expires.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff