In Airbnb era, TC planners want to update rental rules

Dec 5, 2016

Right now, licensed "tourist" houses in Traverse City must be at least 1,000 feet from each other.
Credit City of Traverse City

Traverse City planners say the city's laws on short-term vacation rentals are outdated.

The current rules outlaw renting your home for less than 30 days, unless you're an approved "tourist home." A tourist home is like a traditional bed and breakfast. The law says you can rent a room in your house for up to a week, but you must be present in the home and you must get a license first.

But City Planner Missy Luick says the popularity of websites like Airbnb has led many people to rent rooms illegally.

“Some of the laws that have been on our books since 1999 definitely never anticipated that we would have this mechanism to rent your home on the internet,” says Luick.

Luick says the existing laws on tourist homes are difficult to enforce. The city sometimes acts on complaints form neighbors, and it sometimes actively seeks out illegal ads on Airbnb. This year, the city sent 26 letters to homeowners, notifying them of the license requirement. It also sent 11 “cease and desist” letters to persuade people to stop renting illegally.

The city planning commission will hold a hearing Tuesday night, asking the public whether it should allow more – or fewer – short-term vacation rentals. The commission is considering changing the required distance between licensed tourist homes. Right now, the minimum distance is 1,000 feet. Changes could make that distance 500 or 2,000 feet.

The commission is also considering a new committee that would look at overhauling the rules on vacation rentals.