Anyone have to go in front of their municipality for a variance?

So, I thought I was running legally, had talked to a ordinance inspector when we were moving in about renting our space short term and had talked to the state and county about taxes an such.

So, a neighbor reported me and I got a notice from the city that I am in violation of city code for running a business out of my home and I must cease and desist and each day I do this is another misdemeanor, etc.

My husband went to city hall and got the local business license packet and talked to the code people. We have to fill out several applications all with $150-$250 application fees, get a survey of the property (around $1200!!), and speak in front of a couple of councils and meetings to see if we can even go forward! They’ve never dealt with AirBnB and there’s no precedent, so we have to spend around $2000 to see if the city will even allow it to go forward! Evidently if I wanted to sell Mary Kay I’d have to go through a lot of this rigamarole too, but I think I could avoid the $1200 property survey if I didn’t have customers come to my home and buy product here…

The person I talked to on the phone had looked up my Air profile and said it’s awesome what I’m doing, my reviews are amazing, and she thinks it’s great that people are coming to my town and that she thinks it’s sad someone reported me because now I HAVE to get a business license to go forward. That also means business insurance.

Anyone done anything like this before? I don’t want to get a long-term “room-mate” to avoid this hassle. I don’t want someone I don’t know (or do, ugh) living here long term and risk them not paying me or tearing the place up and having to deal with eviction. I think I may have enough friends of friends to make a little and just go off the listing sites and at least break even with the expenses of maintaining a guesthouse, but this is how my family supplements our income with me staying home with 4 kids. I even went to the neighbor I thought it was (they said it wasn’t them), but why can’t people at least have the dignity to tell me if there were any issues! I have a 2 acre lot with a guest house and no one ever parks in the street or goes in my neighbor’s yards. Only one neighbor has even noticed without me telling them about it!

I’m just ranting at this point, but there’s another AirBnB in a guest house down the road. We were told by the city inspectors unofficially that since we’re not zoned for 2 family occupancy our only options with our guest houses is to let only family live long term or friends and acquaintances on a short term basis. He never said we’d need a license though we never mentioned AirBnB by name either…

I want to complain about it, but I also don’t want my neighbor who makes and sells desserts out of his home to get in trouble, or another lady who makes art and sells it online or my friend who sells a product and works from home. And what about me cleaning people’s houses and me maintaining my business out of my home. Ugh.

Where do I even go from here, I only made $1000 this month, I can’t spend $2000 to see if I can even GET a business license to do this. I’m hoping I can avoid the survey and some of the applications as I’m not running a store front or selling merchandise or anything. And do I want to go speak in front of the Mayor and city council and open the can of worms of AirBnBs in our lovely little town…

First thing is to know the zoning ordinance. It sounds as though you are not sure of what is or is not allowed.
You may want to have an attorney clarify if the town really had the right to send you a cease and desist.
And, does the town really intend to enforce the cease and desist? Some towns send them out of necessity and then ignore enforcement.
And yes, I have had to deal with zoning and it can be difficult.
Never report or complain about a neighbor, or try to make your stance based upon what a neighbor is doing…2 wrongs will not make you legal and will only hurt the next person.


@Sarah_Warren I know you feel badly done by, and it is such a sad blow for you, but if you want to run a business, you need to ensure it’s set up properly and in line with your city’s planning/business regulations.

As @georgygirlofairbnb says do check out the basis on which the letter was sent. It seems strange they have never dealt with a business license for an Airbnb when you mention there are others in your city. Perhaps different zones in your city have different rules?

Unfortunately it sounds, like you opened your Airbnb without properly checking out whether you could run a home based business without a licence. You were told by the city inspector that your only option for short term lets were friends. I wonder why you didn’t ask him about letting to strangers through Airbnb if that’s what you wanted to do.

If you don’t want to pay to apply for a business license to operate a business legally from home and you don’t want long term guests, then it sounds like you might need to identify work outside of the home if your family needs to supplement their income. You mentioned co-hosting - so why not look at this as an alternative option.

From what you have said the survey and applications are about running a business from home and will include looking at the impact on your local community. On that basis I am not sure why you feel they can be avoided.

Why not speak to some of the other Airbnb’s in your area (there is likely to be a local group on FB or similar) and ask for their advice? Also ask advice from the people running the business licence. I don’t know about in the US but in the UK they are normally really helpful.

You are running a business and applying for the right licenses and having short term home insurance (which you should have had anyway) is a cost of doing business in your city, or in your area.

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Hi Sarah,
I want to say how sorry I am about this. I know you were an excellent host and an asset to your community. I would try to do more research with your municipality to determine if you spend the money you will be granted the licenses, permits to rent through Airbnb. Maybe while you do this you can get a tenant for the next 6 months to help cover the costs. I don’t know your area but here in NY if you use a realtor to find a qualified tenant the tenant pays the fee and they do a background check and qualify them. They will also colllect advance months rent on your behalf as well as a security deposit.


So… I’m in NYC. New Yorkers have a… complicated relationship with bureaucracy.

I have not done this (honest!), but long before Airbnb, people were getting around rules against str here by drawing up standard leases.

But wait, there’s more.

While everyone “officially” agreed to rent for a month (thereby making it legal), it also said that if either host or tenant wished to end the lease “early” they would be charged (whatever the amount agreed upon for the period the guest actually wanted)

I know people who have been doing that for 20 years. In your situation, I’d switch to that method to get through whatever bookings you currently have while you pursue getting a license/ whatever your town requires.

Good luck!


I’m about to run out the door so I haven’t read all the responses yet, but I may have a leg to stand on!

state law: “441.007. No owner, as that term is defined under section 67.5110, shall be required
2 to obtain a business or occupational license by any political subdivision of the state for the
3 sole reason that the owner offers to rent or lease, or in fact rents or leases, real property
4 to a permanent guest or rents to transient guests for no more than one-hundred eighty-two
5 days in a calendar year.”

I didn’t reach 182 days last year or this year yet. I may have a case!


That’s good news although I would have thought the person at the council that you spoke to on the phone would have pointed out this loophole if it was an option.

Fingers crossed.


We had someone post here with this exact same issue… sounding the exact same as you. I think she worried for a bit about the variance and all that and then kept on hosting. The supposed notice was handed out because of a neighbor and then there was no enforcement after that. I forget her name! Anyone else remember it?

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I remember, she’s in PA but I don’t recall her forum name.

The user was kasage00


Who in city government knows anything about state law? They’re just an employee doing what their boss tells them to do and since I’m the first case of this coming up they’re unfamiliar with it. Often municipal law supersedes state law, but in this case it’s one of those new “AirBnB laws” to protect homeowners from municipalities, and since I’m the first case of this coming up, my city hasn’t created a loophole to get around it.

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Write to Kasage and ask her what she did. She was in your exact circumstance.

I have no advice to give whatsoever but just want to show some luurve for this forum and say what a great response from everyone :clap: :clap: Hope it helps you, Sarah. Best of luck.


You have a great memory! Wasn’t until I read your post that I remembered that thread, but I certainly don’t remember who it was.

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That’s great news, I hope you can continue!


Someone else remembered her name! She as also the one who had two (foreign–not going to name the nationality) parents stay for a few months cooking up a storm and taking over the house and not speaking English while the son worked every day.

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Sarah when I started I wanted to be legal so I inquired with the county zoning board. Per the zoning laws I was not allowed without a variance.

The zoning board is comprised of 5 builders active in the county. They were paid by the citizens to look out for their own interests…err I mean the internet of the citizens.

Fees were required. Appearing before the board was required. Ugh!!!

I handled it by writing my neighbors a personal letter attesting to my “neighborliness” and requesting the board grant the variance and that they had no objections.

I personally went to each close neighbor and got them to sign their personal letter and even got my next door neighbors to agree to speak on my behalf.

like has been mentioned look at zoning laws, then county laws, and finally state. Good luck nothing happens fast with government. Keep us informed of your status.


That does sound like you are going to have to go though layers of bureaucracy. Best of luck.

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You need an attorney familiar with this area of law.
I do think that Bed and Breakfast and Transient rentals are prohibited under your town zoning, and I have no idea if state law takes precedence.
I suspect the zoning is the the key, and the narrow zoning is likely allowed.
@Alia_Gee gave excellent advice if you have the strength to follow the advice, and if the town does not chase you. Or you may then also be defending yourself in court.
This is a national issue affecting many towns and communities.

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I’m headed to city hall this afternoon. The good news is we have an old survey that they said is sufficient that is saving us $750. I’m trying to contact the state bill representatives that are working on our local AirBnB law. I’m just thankful I listened to that little voice a month back that told me to take on a 2 month direct booking that I wouldn’t normally take, because my listing is shut down until November at the earliest! They didn’t say I had to cancel what was already booked (so far anyway), and as it is MY guesthouse and this 2 month stay is working with my dad and brother-in-law…