Council clarifies position regarding short-term rentals

CLINTON — Commissioners offered Tuesday clarification on their recent discussion of short-term rental units. 

City attorney John Hoblit, at a previous meeting, said residents who opened short-term rentals in residential areas were possibly in violation of city ordinance.  He based this on the fact that the city code does not address the topic.

Hoblit said if the code did not provide for the specific activity, it was not allowed.

Clinton resident and property owner Curt Ware addressed the council during its Tuesday meeting.  He said he had a problem with some of the language used during the council’s discussion of short-term rentals.

Ware owns a home which is currently empty and he would like to operate as a rental on a temporary basis.

“It’s a home I would like to come back to when my wife retires,” Ware said.

The home formerly belonged to Ware’s parents.

“There’s nothing in zoning that says what you can or cannot do,” Ware said.

Hoblit said in the previous council meeting that codes were written primarily to address what was allowed, not to address what was not allowed.

Ware said he did not know if he would use the Airbnb booking platform to rent his house.  But, he said it was no different than using other methods for renting a house for a week on vacation or renting a house in the city of Clinton.

“If we went through the city of Clinton and looked at how many houses are rented, I don’t think the city knows how long the term is on the rent or how long a person stays in a house in Clinton,” Ware said. 

He said he assumed it wasn’t public knowledge, “yet, the city wants to step in and tell a person how long they can rent their property because they’re using a source like Airbnb.”

Ware said he wanted to rent his house out for longer terms but wanted the right to rent to a family that might need it for a shorter length of time.  He said he felt it was discriminatory to restrict a property being rented for a short term that was in the same neighborhood as a house being rented long term.

Ware said operating short term rental properties protects the landowners against tenants who won’t pay and refuse to leave.

“As a short-term lease or rental, they’re going to take care of that property because you’re going to get a review,” he said. 

Commissioners said their intention in addressing short-term rentals as part of the city code was not intended to prohibit the type of rental but to regulate them.

“We need to look at how we make that classification,” commissioner John Wise said.  “We do not have it on our books.”

Wise said Hoblit was correct in saying the ones that were operating currently were doing so without any zoning in place that would allow their operation.  Some of those rentals would be required to pay hotel/motel tax to the city.

“We want to look at how we have that in our code and have that classification,” Wise said.

Wise said he did not oppose Airbnb-types of rentals but that the city needed language in the code covering the activity to create a “level playing field.”

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