Susan Clarke fondly remembers the guest rooms her family rented as they traveled around England during her childhood. She tries to re-create that experience for visitors renting a room in her Victorian home in St. Paul's Selby-Dale neighborhood.
She redecorated the room before posting it on the rental website Airbnb and runs it like a business, said Clarke, who also has a chiropractic company.
"I've been really responsible about what people were renting," she said, but not every host has the same mind-set. "I think a lot of people are getting into it who don't know how to run a business."
The city of St. Paul will start studying ways to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rental companies to weed out those poorly run operations.
The City Council voted on Wednesday to have the city's Department of Safety and Inspections and the Department of Planning and Economic Development look into whether companies' procedures fit with city rules and if city codes ensure that landlords, neighbors and renters are safe and protected. City staff members also will check whether appropriate taxes are being collected.
Department staff members are scheduled to report what they find and bring back any recommendations for rule changes by June 1.
They may come back with no changes, said Council Member Chris Tolbert, who initiated the look into short-term rentals. He said he wanted to get in front of the growing use of such companies.
There are currently more than 300 rental properties in or near St. Paul that are listed on Airbnb.
Tolbert said he has used Airbnb and likes the company, which he said will be useful when hotels are filled during events such as Red Bull Crashed Ice and the 2018 Super Bowl. "We're not trying to stop Airbnb," he said. "At the same time, it's a completely unregulated area."
If a St. Paul landlord rents out a basement bedroom for a month at a time, Tolbert said the city would require precautions such as an egress window and a certificate of occupancy, which shows that the building complies with fire, housing and other codes. With rentals that are for only a day at a time, those same rules do not exist, he said.
St. Paul is one of many cities studying Airbnb and other short-term rental companies.
In July, Duluth enacted a yearlong moratorium on new rental permits as it studied how to regulate them. In Burnsville, city officials are expected to vote this month on a measure clarifying that short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, are prohibited under city code. Eagan also has considered regulations as neighbors have raised concerns about visitors coming and going from a home in a residential neighborhood.
Tolbert said that there have been a few complaints about the rentals in St. Paul and that he understands the annoyance of neighbors who see new people staying at a home every week.
Airbnb's website includes information for hosts on the zoning, licensing and tax rules in many cities, including Minneapolis. St. Paul is not listed.
"We are looking forward to working with our community to educate St. Paul lawmakers about the economic benefits of home sharing and work with the city to ensure that our community of middle-class hosts can pay their fair share," Airbnb spokesman Christopher Nulty said in an e-mailed statement.