Partner Jill Yonkers, spoke with Patrick Connelly from the Buffalo Law Journal about the importance of knowing your local zoning rules when renting home space to travelers.
How have entities such as Airbnb disrupted the marketplace? Airbnb and others like FlipKey, Homeaway and VRBO have added lodging alternatives to the marketplace.
Short-term or transient rentals are attractive to many travelers because they can be more affordable than traditional lodging choices like hotels and motels. They may allow a customer to occupy more space than a hotel room or suite. The rented area may be in a more private and comfortable setting than conventional accommodations, too.
They also can give customers a unique experience, as lodging choices vary widely on these accommodation websites.
Can anyone turn a room in their home, garage, pool house or vacant property into a short-term rental? What should they know from a legal standpoint and who can they check with in regard to zoning? While the marketplace is seemingly endless, the proprietors of online accommodations often impose some basic, minimal criteria.
For example, Airbnb requires that the space offered be used primarily for lodging. If the space is a mobile home, sailboat, yacht or similar vessel, it has to be semi-permanently attached to a set location and parked in a privately owned space during the reservation period. Motor vehicles and watercraft intended for mobile use are not allowed to be rented. But generally customers can rent single rooms to entire properties. Some of the more unique offerings include tree houses, private pool houses, yurts, castles and igloos.
Owners and landlords should check the applicable local zoning code, many of which are now online, for specific provisions governing short-term rentals. Most building and zoning officials are happy to discuss their code provisions with residents and would welcome the opportunity to avoid an issue from the outset.