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University of Baltimore Journal of Land and Development

Abstract

The advent of the Internet, smartphones, and social media has shrunk the world to the point where a person in Baltimore can connect with someone in Botswana with only the click of a finger. Whether it be a social media post or business e-mail, eight thousand miles can feel more like eight feet with how quickly we can connect and converse with people around the globe. The use of these information technology tools and inventions to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data has transformed the way we learn, the way we communicate, and the way we do business. This newfound technology has not only gone from a luxury to a necessity in the business world but also has helped spawn an entire sector of the economy. Commencing in the early to mid-twenty-first century, the “sharing economy” simply began as a way for people to make an extra dollar during the economic downturn.1 Today, it has created a multi-billion-dollar industry. 2 Just as peer-to-peer businesses such as eBay or Craigslist allow anyone to become a retailer by merely making an account, the sharing economy is made up of websites, companies, and applications which allow individuals to act as an “ad hoc taxi service, car-hire firm or boutique hotel as and when it suits them.”3 At the forefront of the sharing economy boom is the San Francisco-based company Airbnb, which enables people to list, find, and rent lodging throughout the country and world, often for much cheaper prices than similarly located hotels or motels.4 According to their website, “Airbnb is a community marketplace where guests can book spaces from hosts, connecting people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay,” but as Airbnb continues to undercut and undermine the hotel industry, the question remains, is it legal?5 This article will delve into the history of Airbnb, into its foundations and presence in Baltimore, and will explore the tax and zoning laws that may affect Airbnb owners and guests within the city.

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