Short term rentals have operated illegally for years in Long Beach but are now legal after a unanimous vote by the City Council.

Residents hoping to rent their homes for the short term through sites like Airbnb will now have more leeway under a new city law that will allow for unhosted short-term rentals.

Previously, homeowners were only allowed to rent their space to short-term guests if they remained on the property as a host throughout the guest’s stay. 

On Tuesday, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to change the law to allow for unhosted rentals, which will allow to the city to tax and better regulate the industry, officials said.

Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, who represents the 2nd District, said many people were renting through Airbnb and other vacation rental sites illegally.

“The city hasn’t had any ability to hold accountable the bad operators in our town,” she said. “For too long we’ve done this in a Wild West way.”

The final vote comes after years of debate on how to regulate the growing number of short-term rentals in the city. The city will now allow up to 800 unhosted units a year.

The plan, however, hasn’t been popular with some residents worried about noise and quality of life issues, and hotel workers concerned about the impact to the hospitality industry.

Audrey Luna, who lives in an apartment complex in the Rose Park neighborhood, was one of many residents who spoke on Tuesday about the concerns over impacted parking, noisy parties and people holding large gatherings despite health orders in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There have been several large gatherings and parties with noise after the 10 p.m. curfew,” she said. “Some are not following the COVID sanitation protocol. Garbage has increased and has caused a rodent infestation. I really hope this ban is not lifted.”

Alex Bland, a spokesperson for Airbnb, on Tuesday said the company has enacted mandatory enhanced cleaning protocols during the pandemic.

With more regulation, council members said the city is now able to crack down on hosts who don’t adhere to rules including guest occupancy limits and noise curfews. Penalties could include fines of up to $1,000.

In one change, Councilwoman Suzie Price asked that the city allow for residents to petition if they do not want a vacation rental in their neighborhood. Price also asked that the hosts be limited to two rentals.

[Editors note: the original version of this story said up to 1,000 unhosted units would be allowed by the city. The new limit is 800.]