Just a couple of years ago, the village of Riverside amended its village code to allow bed-and-breakfast establishments. So far, no one’s taken the village up on the offer, but there have been a handful of folks who have dipped their toes into the more under-the-radar world of online vacation rentals.
Websites like AirBnB and VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) have thrived in recent years by allowing the owners of condos and homes (and yes, people who rent apartments also have been known to do short-term subleases as well) to rent their homes or rooms in their homes for a few days or few weeks at a time to visitors.
The resulting rental activity is largely unregulated, apart from reviews that people can post on the websites themselves. Those offering their residences for rental are able to remain fairly anonymous in that they don’t have to post their addresses or names on the websites.
As a result, unless there’s a complaint or serious issue, it’s tough for municipalities to track what’s going on at these places. And while the impact of these small-scale vacation rentals might be pretty invisible in a larger urban context, in a place like Riverside they can be a problem.
The fact that you can’t park on the street overnight is just one issue. The fact that Riverside is a largely quiet, single-family residential community is another. It doesn’t take a whole lot for neighbors to notice that strange people are coming and going or that a large, late night party attended by a bunch of unfamiliar people next door is an odd occurrence.
So, it’s a pretty easy argument to make that Riverside ought to have some way to regulate folks who want to rent out their places on occasion. What’s trickier is deciding just how much you want to regulate them.
The village board was to have considered a draft ordinance regulating vacation rentals last week. The discussion got postponed, but the draft will be coming back to the board soon, perhaps as early as next week.
At first glance, the draft would appear to place a pretty fair burden on those who would like to get aboard the AirBnB train. In addition to business licensing, the village would mandate regular inspections, require liability insurance, demand proof of sufficient off-street parking and mandate a registry of guests that the village can inspect upon request.
In addition, if you want to operate a vacation rental in one of the village’s single-family residential zoning districts, you have to submit a special use application, which at the moment requires a $1,000 fee and a public hearing in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
If the goal is to actually allow these kinds of rentals, that would seem to be a lot of regulations and might convince someone who wants to do it to simply take their chances and bypass the process.
Protecting neighbors, guests and property owners is a great goal. Making it so difficult to get up and running might do the opposite.