New Orleans short term rental laws impose a 90 day rental limit on units that are in residential areas and aren’t own-occupied. The city calls these Type T or “Temporary” licenses.
After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Airbnb offered to waive its service fees for hosts who decided to host evacuees free of charge. A short term rental client recently asked if those free nights counted against the 90 day limit for her temporary license.
In our opinion, the answer is no, those nights don’t count against the 90 day cap.
The city’s law defines a short term rental as “rental of all or any portion thereof of a residential dwelling unit for dwelling, lodging or sleeping purposes.” The laws don’t define the word “rental,” but one dictionary defines it as “pay someone for the use of (something, typically property, land, or a car).”
Therefore, a rental, by definition, requires a payment. That payment doesn’t even have to be cash or currency, but there does need to be some exchange.
In the case of hurricane evacuees who are receiving use of the property free of charge, that isn’t a rental, it’s a donation. Therefore, because it’s not a rental, it shouldn’t count against the 90 day cap, and it also shouldn’t incur sales and use taxes.
However, hosts should protect themselves. If the city attempts to fine you for exceeding the 90 day limit, you’ll want proof that it wasn’t a rental, but a donation. Document the free use by having the evacuee sign a short statement indicating the nights they used the property, and that they did so free of charge. Collect their phone number and mailing address, too, just in case you need to reach them.