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Niagara Falls city leaders vote to implement a bed tax on short-term rentals

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - It might soon cost you more to rent an Airbnb in Niagara Falls. A bed tax, also known as an occupancy tax, that is added to hotel rooms could soon apply to short-term rentals.

Niagara Falls City Council Members passed a resolution Wednesday to implement the tax. City leaders expect the state to approve it during this legislative session.

"It's an unfair advantage to these folks who are essentially competing in a way with the hotels and motels," said Councilman Chris Voccio.

Niagara Falls Airbnb host Merle Smouse says he's in favor of the bed tax, even if that means his customers will pay more.

"They'll be paying, I'm not gonna suffer a five or six percent hit for this tax, you got to pass that on to your customer," said Smouse.

Smouse has been renting out his six short-term rentals to guests for seven years. He believes a bed tax would weed out hosts who rent illegally.

"If you go on Airbnb and you really look through, you'll find some horrifying things in our city," said Smouse.

"We probably have somewhere around you know, 60 to 100 that have illegally listed," said Seth Piccirillo, Director of Community Development and Code Enforcement.

Piccirillo said there's about 60 Airbnb's currently registered in the city legally. He says the illegal rentals are operating without a license, meaning the homes haven't been checked for safety; making sure it's habitable and working smoke detectors.

Finding an illegal rental, however, can be difficult since online listings can be deleted quickly.

"The idea of having a bed tax is separate, but it also might help who is operating illegally and who isn't. We don't want something bad to happen," said Piccirillo.

Piccirillo told News 4 cease and desist signs will be put up this week on illegal short term rentals.

City council members also voted Wednesday night to increase the city's bed tax from five percent to six percent.


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