In what may be a first in the Twin Cities, Lakeville has enacted new rules that limit the growing cottage industry of people operating their homes like bed & breakfasts.
The City Council last week approved zoning changes on short-term rentals in homes in nearly all parts of the city. The new rules are aimed at people marketing homes on the Internet for short-term stays as alternatives to hotels and motels, an activity the city says has drawn complaints from some neighbors.
“You have a lot of cars, a lot of coming and going of people the neighbors don’t recognize,” Planning Director Daryl Morey told the council. “People get concerned with the safety of their neighborhood.”
The most widely used online vehicle is Airbnb, a billed as “the world’s largest community hospitality community” with more than 600,000 listings in private homes in 34,000 cities worldwide. Other similar websites include VRBO and FlipKey as well the general online marketplace Craigslist.
Airbnb has hundreds of listings for rooms available in homes throughout the metro area, including Lakeville. Morey said he knows of no other cities with similar limits on residential boarding, and an informal survey of several communities found none that have rules like Lakeville’s.
Bloomington is looking at issues involving residential boarding and may update its rules.
Airbnb has come under scrutiny in other parts of the country, like New York, where some hosts have illegally sublet apartments they don’t own but merely rent. Last year, hotel and B & B operators in Grand Rapids, Mich., unsuccessfully sought a ban on Airbnb and other services like it.
Lakeville initially considered establishing a minimum 30-day rental period. The rules approved by the council don’t have a minimum stay but say a homeowner cannot enter into a rental agreement with more than two people within a 30-day period. Homeowners also would have to provide two off-street parking spots for their guests.
Like many cities, Lakeville has previously permitted homeowners to rent to a limited number of people outside their families. The practice became more popular during the economic recession as people looked for ways to make ends meet.
Mayor Matt Little said the new rules help clarify the city’s intent for regulations on residential boarding, which were not meant to encourage “the use of a house as a hotel.”
Morey said the city discovered the rental phenomenon because of complaints by neighbors. City Administrator Steve Mielke said the city will continue to rely on complaints to enforce the new rules. An offender would receive a citation, which would require a court appearance. A fine or other punitive action would be determined by the court, Morey said.