Collingswood Debuts Draft AirBnb Legislation

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Commissioners describe the regulations as open to public input. It’s their first attempt to create a legal definition of short-term rentals in town.

By Matt Skoufalos | March 6, 2019

Snow Listing – Chalet in the Stowe Clouds, Stowe, VT. Credit: AirBnB.com

For the past year, the Collingswood municipal government has been working to address a shortfall in its local zoning law; namely, the lack of a legal definition for short-term rental properties.

Since citing resident Suzanne Cloud for running an illegal boardinghouse from her single-family home in January 2018, borough commissioners have fretted about the effects of short-term rentals on neighborhood character.

Later in the year, they discussed potential changes to municipal code based on public safety concerns.

But it wasn’t until this week that draft language for those changes was introduced.

Commissioner Rob Lewandowski views the policy draft as “a starting point for the conversation,” created with the input of each commissioner.

Lewandowski said officials aren’t yet ready to introduce a revised zoning ordinance, but view their changes as part of a working document that’s open to community input.

“Our hope is that we can now have constructive dialogue to understand areas that need to be corrected or explanations of why these are put into the code,” Lewandowski said.

“Our goal is to allow and address every concern that we’ve heard from community members thus far.”

The draft is the first attempt to codify regulations around local, short-term rentals, a zoning case previously unconsidered by existing municipal code but which would regulate services like AirBnb and VRBO.

Lewandowski said the commission acknowledges that short-term rentals represent “a prevalent and often-used service” that benefits property owners, opens up affordable lodging for visitors, and can contribute to the local economy.

The regulations could also mitigate negative effects of short-term rentals that have been observed in other communities; what Lewandowski called “the nuisance, health, and safety stuff.”

“We want families to have renting options, and a lot of people say the reasons they like Collingswood is the economic, racial, and ethnic diversity,” he said.

“It’s that balance that I think we want to get right.”

Collingswood Commissioner Rob Lewandowski. Credit: Rob Lewandowski.

Lewandowski also said he expects and wants changes to the draft legislation, but hopes that criticism of the regulations will come with proposed solutions.

“This is about creating something that works, not just exposing something that doesn’t,” he said.

“We want everyone to play a part in that.”

Key requirements of the draft legislation include requiring owners to register with the borough, caps on stays (a three-day minimum, 14-consecutive-day maximum, and 24-day annual maximum), extensive record-keeping, and annual inspections.

Renting would be limited to owners of detached residences that can provide onsite parking to guests, and excludes those who aren’t current on their municipal service bills and local taxes.

Additional details are summarized below.

Full copies of the draft ordinance are available at Collingswood borough hall, and online on Mayor Jim Maley’s blog.

Registration

Short-term renters must register their properties annually with the borough clerk, including the following information:

  • a floor plan with the number of sleeping rooms onsite
  • the number and type of all pets on the property
  • whether the building has fuel oil, and if so, the name and address of the servicer
  • a copy of a valid property liability insurance policy

Short-term Rental Qualifications

  • Renter-owners must be current on their property taxes, water and sewer bills, and any property liens.
  • Short-term renters are limited to 24 days a year, no more than 14 days consecutively, and no fewer than three days.
  • All tenants must be 21 and older unless accompanied by parent/guardian.
  • All tenants musts park onsite, and rental properties must provide a minimum of one parking space for the owner and one for the tenant. No off-street parking permits will be issued due solely to short-term rental needs.

Environmental Conditions

  • Properties must be compliant with fire code (working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors), and if owner isn’t onsite during the rental period, the monitors must be hard-wired to the building.
  • Property owners must notify the borough fire department ahead of rental dates, and provide information on the number of tenants, their ages, names, addresses and phone numbers.
  • Temperature controls: from October 1 to April 30, rental units must be at least 65° F from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and at least 60° F overnight. From May 1 to September 30, owners must provide air conditioning or fans to keep indoor temperatures from exceeding 74° F. If extreme weather presents a danger to tenants, the borough could require landlords to make immediate repairs or provide alternative housing.

Tenant Notices

Short-term rental owners must post:

  • Their phone numbers and that of a responsible maintenance person;
  • Contact information for borough police, fire, and code enforcement;
  • Locations of all emergency exit routes, fire extinguishers, and fire alarms;
  • The maximum number of parking spaces available onsite;
  • Notification that any short-term renter is subject to fines and penalties for any violations incurred during their stay.

Record-keeping

Short-term renters are expected to keep records of the names, addresses, phone numbers, and ages of each tenant for three years after their stay, plus a copy of their photo ID.

Inspections

  • Short-term rental properties are subject to annual inspection by borough officers with reasonable notice, but their consent to a spot inspection is not required in the event of an emergency or public health danger.
  • The fee for annual inspection is $60; if a re-inspection is needed, it’s no additional charge, but the cost of any subsequent repeat inspections escalates ($50, $70, $100). A $50 surcharge is added for inspection fees unpaid within 30 days of their due date.
  • Failure to comply with inspections makes the property ineligible for rental until it’s returned to compliance (owners can apply for extensions to have more time to remedy).

Prohibitions

  • No short-term rental may violate local residential occupancy requirements.
  • No accessory buildings on a property may be used for short-term rentals.
  • Renting may not create an “unreasonable disturbance or disruption” to the neighborhood or the public in general.
  • No short-term rentals for the purposes of hosting commercial or social events.
  • Owners may not advertise short-term rentals onsite.
  • Only guests on file with the borough clerk may stay in registered properties.
  • Tenants and owners must comply with all other local laws.

Revocation of Privileges

Short-term rental permits can be revoked or suspended if owners:

  • are convicted of violating local laws, or rent to those convicted of violating noise ordinances, disorderly persons, or other laws
  • exceed maximum tenant occupancy
  • keep their facilities in “a dangerous condition” or fail to maintain their property
  • continuously violate state housing, fire, maintenance, construction, building, or BOCA maintenance codes
  • rent to convicted violators of local noise ordinances, disorderly persons offenses laws, or other crimes
  • actively or passively violate occupancy terms
  • operate a de facto boarding house
  • fail to correct written violations within 10 days
  • fail to submit to inspection

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