Anyone in Riverside looking to rent out a residence or a room within a home on vacation rental websites such as AirBnB and VRBO soon may have to abide by strict licensing rules.
The Riverside Village Board next week is expected to consider regulating vacation rentals, requiring hosts to obtain a license and provide sufficient off-street parking. If Riverside’s Board of Trustees can agree on language for amending the village code, the matter would go to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a public hearing and to the Preservation Commission for discussion before coming back to the village board for a final vote.
“We don’t want [vacation rentals] going on under the radar,” said Village President Ben Sells in an interview last week.
There have been a handful of rentals listed over the past couple of years on AirBnB in Riverside (there are also a half dozen or so listed in the south side of Brookfield). And while the rentals generally don’t draw much attention to themselves, sometimes there can be issues.
Riverside officials were prompted to act on regulating AirBnB rentals after a neighbor complaint late last summer about a single-family home being rented out.
“We did receive a complaint because of parking and a louder, rowdy party with people up late,” said Sonya Abt, the village’s community development director.
Abt said she identified approximately five locations — from single-family homes to condos to units in two-flats — being advertised on vacation rental websites, including one that had operating for about a year and which had a dozen online reviews.
Last fall, the village sent out a letter to the folks offering the vacation rentals, telling them to either cease renting out rooms and residences or register as a bed-and-breakfast establishment, which comes with some fairly strict licensing and inspection requirements.
“Our main concern was that we wanted to protect neighbors’ privacy and quiet,” Sells said. “I like the idea of vacation rentals. We want places where people can stay in town. But we want to make sure to protect the properties and people around them.”
According to a draft ordinance that was to have been discussed by the village board on April 7, but which was postponed, anyone operating as a vacation rental location must obtain a business license annually. The next Riverside Village Board meeting is scheduled for April 21.
In order to get a license, the operator must provide a certificate of liability insurance, must own at least 25 percent of the property and must prove there’s adequate off-street parking. When the vacation rental is first licensed, the space must also be inspected by the fire department to make sure it complies with village codes. Every two years after that, the space must undergo inspection by the fire and building departments.
The draft ordinance also prohibits renting a vacation rental for less than 24 hours or for more than 30 consecutive days. In addition, it allows a maximum occupancy of not more than one person per 125 square feet living space. It also requires operators to maintain a registry of guests that can be inspected by the village upon request.
It’s proposed that vacation rentals be permitted by right in Riverside’s commercial districts on Harlem Avenue and downtown. In residential zoning districts, vacation rental operators would require obtaining a special use permit. That process also triggers a public hearing in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The cost to apply for a special use permit is $1,000. Sells said the village board may consider lowering that cost for people wanting to apply for a permit for vacation rentals. But the fee for the permit application served a purpose, said Sells.
“We don’t want people doing it as a lark,” Sells said. “And they can easily recoup that fee. The idea is it shows people are committed to doing it.”