By Karen Cornelius
The Legislative Committee met on Monday evening, January 8, and discussed vacation rentals and possible legislation for AirBNB (bed and breakfast) and short-term rentals. Currently there is no regulations for these temporary rentals by property owners offered over the internet where only a credit card is required. There is an ordinance requiring all rental property owners to register, but that has been unsuccessful so far, possibly due to the fact many are unaware of the 2015 ordinance.The conversation seemed to go in circles with no resolve. It was tabled until members could read over legislation from other cities such as Fort Lauderdale. The topic will return on Legislative’s March or April agenda.
Legislative chair Monica Stark said the city already has legislation to control noise and parking, but it is important to make sure taxes are being collected on these Internet and short-term rentals. Councilman Frank Loucka stated that the 2015 ordinance covers all property owners who rent without any fees involved. He said anyone who rents should register, but they need to sort this out because no one is registering. He said this registration would give the city an idea of who’s renting property.
Councilman John Gabriel said he knows Vermilion has a lot of rentals, but the city would have to hire someone to enforce this registration and that costs money for an additional employee. He questioned how big a problem this is because they have a lot bigger problems to solve already. He said it might work if the position paid for itself, but he doubted it could. Hiring someone and finding all the rentals would take a long time. Council president Steve Herron disagreed and thought the city should address these AirBNB’s because it is an economic issue for the city as well as a safety one. He said they should know who rents and if the property is safe. “People need to be safe if they are visiting and staying in Vermilion. It’s the owner’s duty,” said Herron. “I believe we should have something on the books.”
Councilman Steve Holovacs stated they do have other issues, and if they can’t finance new legislation they have to be careful what they pass. If there’s no manpower, legislation can’t be enforced. So, why pass it, questioned Holovacs. Councilwoman Barb Brady said the long-term rentals aren’t the problem. She said short-term is a revolving door some visitors not respectful of the neighborhood cause a visit from the police for disturbances. She said that long and short-term are separate things. Councilman Loucka stated that B&B’s are allowed in the historic district and there are no fees or bed tax imposed. He said hotels, five or more rooms, have a three percent bed tax. Apartments in R-5 have no fees. “There are no fees for any rental properties in the city,” said Loucka. Brady pointed out that Lorain County has no bed tax.
Councilman Gabriel was wary of prohibiting people from using their own property. He thought the problem could be attacked another way because the city has the authority to prohibit problem areas and restrict those individuals. Council president Herron said he would like to give new council members the time to look at the ordinances from other cities that address these issues. Narrow down what exactly they are trying to do, and keep an open mind. He suggested tabling the topic. Councilman Loucka said to take into account the ordinance they have requiring people who rent to register. If they don’t there is a fine because they are in violation. Those that are public nuisances can be taken to court. Councilman Holovacs commented that landlords taken renters to court every day to evict them. It was then decided the topic would be brought back in March or April.