License Denied Due

Hi all. I live in a major City that decided to require hosts to obtain a shared housing license two years ago. Mind you, I have operated my Airbnb for close than 3 1/2 years and am a Super Host. I originally was grand fathered in, but because of shoddy administrative responses on their end, I missed the deadline to renew my Airbnb. Because the department was recently created, they are not properly staffed and a typical response to whether an application is renewed takes sixty day! Anyway, after completing the housing registration renewal, I was denied because they claim I attempted to register a unit in a building with four or fewer dwellings units and had to apply for a Commissioner’s Adjustment, which was quite involved. My application was again recently denied because according to them “there was no evidence that the approval of my application would eliminate an extraordinary burden in light of unique or unusual circumstances.” In addition to a mass amount of information I provided, I stated that denial of my application would cause extraordinary hardship to me because it is my sole income needed to operate my property, including mortgage, utilities, maintenance, etc.

They said mortgages and utilities are ordinary considerations that a property owner of any kind information (?) must cogitate, and therefore, cannot be considered extraordinary and that I must submit documentation to support my claim of a burden. WTH!! Obviously I’m missing something in the verbiage!!! I had a free consultation with an attorney yesterday and decided to reach out to you guys before I go any further. The City is truly making this difficult!

Thanks for any assistance/insight you can provide!

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I’m sorry you are having to go though this, sounds very frustrating and time-consuming to little avail, and can’t provide you with any helpful advice, but I would say I have to agree with them saying that if it’s the home you own and live in, that mortgage payments and utilities are in fact ordinary expenses incurred by all homeowners and are not some unique or unusual circumstance which necessitates running an Airbnb.

I do wish you luck with getting your license approved, though, but perhaps the lawyer can advise on a different angle to take that might be more successful than it being an extraordinary hardship based on your inability to pay your mortgage or utilities, because most homeowners pay those things without having an str listing.

Maybe if you post the name of your city, other hosts on the forum may be from there and could give you more insight into these local regs.


I’m sorry you’re having this difficulty.

I assume you’re in Chicago (my home town, though I now live elsewhere).

So in a 2-4 unit building you cannot get a short-term rental license unless it’s your primary residence and the only unit in the building that’s a shared housing unit or vacation rental unless either you:

  • Were properly licensed as of 6/22/16 or
  • Can obtain the commissioner of business affairs and consumer protection’s ‘adjustment’ that would eliminate:

" an extraordinary burden on the applicant in light of unique or unusual circumstances and would not detrimentally impact the health, safety, or general welfare of surrounding property owners or the general public."

The law lists by way of example and not limitation “any extraordinary economic hardship to the applicant, due to special circumstances, that would result from a denial.”

So I agree with @muddy and the commissioner that mortgages and utilities are ordinary considerations for any homeowner.

So you need to show that not getting this license places on you:

  1. an extraordinary burden and
  2. your unique or unusual circumstances, and that
  3. your rental would not detrimentally impact the health, safety, or general welfare of surrounding property owners or the general public.

You don’t need to explain these to us if it’s too personal but that’s what you need to show.

It might be difficult to show an ‘extraordinary burden’ if you own other real property (a previous post said you live across the street) and whatever your assets and liabilities are.

You’ll need to cite your unique or unusual circumstances.

So it’s not that you have a mortgage but, for example, are disabled and unable to pay the mortgage due to your disability. Even here were I the commissioner I’d want to see your tax returns and an affidavit of all assets and liabilities – or, better, an assessment of them by a CPA or CFP professional showing an extraordinary burden and special circumstances with an offer to show them, perhaps a notarized affidavit by you attesting to the accuracy and completeness of your submission, perhaps an additional affidavit from another/others attesting to your special circumstances.

People can be disabled and be quite well off financially. Or unable to pay the mortgage without the short-term rental income because of personal spending choices.

So you’re going to have to make your case that being unable to rent this property as a short-term rental (you could always rent it out long term, right?) is an extraordinary burden for you because of your unique or unusual circumstances.

If you think you are in such circumstances but have difficulty articulating them I wonder if a certified financial professional CFP(R) could help you in seeking the commissioner’s adjustment as to your extraordinary burden and unique or special circumstances.

You’ll still need to make the case that the commissioner granting this adjustment would not detrimentally impact the health, safety, or general welfare of surrounding property owners or the general public. I’m not sure how you would show that.

For example, if you don’t own the building then others in the building could not qualify for a license for short-term rentals [4-14-060 (e) (ii)]. Could you get their written statements that they have no plans to apply for such a license? Anyway, you’ll need also to make this case in your application.

Please tell us more about this grandfathering because it would seem that you could not be grandfathered under 4-14-060 (e) if you were not properly licensed as of 6/22/16. Since you say you were operating the property for 3-1/2 years you wouldn’t have been licensed in 2016.

Under what provision of the law were you hoping to be grandfathered?

Did you discuss with the lawyer you met with your conclusion that but for ‘shoddy administrative responses’ from the City you missed the deadline [what deadline was that?] to renew your short-term rental? What did the lawyer say?


If the OP has been running her str for 3 and a half years with no complaints from anyone, that might address that requirement?

That would certainly be helpful to show. This might require statements from those in the building, maybe more neighbors. She could add a statement that, for example, police had never been called to the location during that timeframe.

But because of the law that no one else in the building can apply for the license, she might need to show that they’re not disadvantaged. Of course if she owns the building it’s likely that her leases don’t permit subletting.

But if she owns the building it might be hard to demonstrate her extraordinary burden. [Unless somehow the burden is not a financial burden, but top-of-mind I don’t know what that non-financial burden might be.]

If I were the commissioner and she could rent long term (why not?), I might view askance at an application that argues she could earn more from a short-term rental unless her financial situation is that she’s just barely making ends meet. [Rents rose almost by 9% last year in Chicago.]

It’s difficult to provide guidance when we really don’t know all the facts, which I understand might be laborious or too personal to recite. That’s why she might need professional help IF she really thinks that not being able to rent short-term (vs long term or even selling) places on her an extraordinary burden in light of her special or unique circumstances.

Unless there’s another way via her grandfathering comment.

Another thing she might consider is before submitting a revised application but having completed a revised draft version with professional assistance, is to meet with her alderman/alderperson.

It would be powerful if the OP could secure a statement form her alderperson there that the rental would not detrimentally impact the health, safety, or general welfare of surrounding property owners or the general public.

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Thank you everyone. I gave the short answer I provided to the City, and yes, it is Chicago. Other unique or special considerations cited: I’m located in a National Park (Pullman National Historical Park, which has seen tourism increase exponentially since its destination in 2015; the City anticipates 300,000 visitors annually eventually; I have received no complaints from neighbors before or after it became an Airbnb. In fact, they like having their relatives/friends close by when they visit. The City strongly supports the revitalization of the community in efforts to draw visitors to a neighborhood that has long been blighted for decades, has significant history with the labor movement, and is one of the first planned industrial communities in the United States.

The “shoddy administrative response” I mentioned was because I had difficulty logging into my account I could not reach anyone to assist with resetting my password for four days. In fact, I was constantly informed by the operator that the department didn’t have a call center. By the time they responded with a new password to reset my account, my account was deactivated the same day I received the response. I went to speak in person with someone from City Hall who wasn’t helpful at all.

The first year, 2001, was when the City explained that property owners have to get a license. By that time, I had already been operating my property for a year and half, so it was only a matter of paying the $125. I don’t have a problem with the city having oversite of properties being used as Airbnb’s because they should know which ones have recurring problems.

Do I want to rent out my property again? NO, I enjoy the freedom of having guests short-term because it cuts down on the wear and tear of the house, they enjoy their visit to the Chicago, and, of course, the money is not bad either! Being able to shut it down whenever I want to accommodate relatives when they come to town is not bad either.

Right now, I’m waiting to hear from the attorney.

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I was continually involved in the creation of our local ordinances in order to keep Short Term Rentals alive in my area. The town settled on some fair and reasonable ordinances, and also some terms that are somewhat objectionable.
I know I will not be helpful to you, and I sound like a scold and a lecturer, but you fail to take personal responsiblity for your current predicament.
These consequences of having no permit are because you:… “missed the deadline to renew”.
Once an ordinance and parameters are established and voted in, citizens have the obligation to follow the rules and meet the terms of the requirements. You missed your deadline to renew, and therefore you now have no permit.
While my heart hurts for you…and it truly does…I can assure you that the same results would happen in any town where the deadline is missed. The City does intend to make it difficult, and particularly now because of the negativity surrounding STR.
You missed that critical deadline and lost your grandfather status, which may affect your income stream now for perpetuity. Now you have to acquire your permit based upon other standards, which your property may fail to meet. Maybe an attorney can find some rational reasons to meet the town requirements to “eliminate an extraordinary burden in light of unique or unusual circumstances”…and maybe an attorney can help you move forward with your town to get you approved for that permit under those parameters.
Good luck. I feel genuinely sorry for you.


Are you a stay at home mom, caregiver of an elder or dissabled? Any of those might be considered extraordinary hardship because you’re unable to work outside of the home and the Airbnb income is a necessity.


Look at Elliotborough / Ansonbourough in Charleston SC.
In order to support area revitilaztion, this area became an overlay district, and in this district Short Term Rentals became legal. Perhaps you can get the zoning changed in this National Park (Pullman National Historical Park) and get your permit back by coming in the back door and changing the zoning, because that would help achieve the goals of the town.

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Thanks, Muddy, but I don’t live in it. It’s across the street from my home.

Retired and it supplements my income.

I’m retired so it’s supplemental income.

@georgygirlofairbnb As I stated, i attempted to contact the new department before the deadline on numerous occasions via the automated text address and initially received no response. Finally, they kept sending automated texts on how to reset my password which didn’t help. My problem was with one of the security questions in order to reset it. Finally, after continuous emails to speak to someone, they sent an email with a password to use to reset it. All of this occurred a couple of weeks before the deadline. After receiving this password, when I tried to use it, I discovered my Airbnb license had expired-- that day. Go figure! So, I went to City Hall, and the only person who works in the department was unable to help me. Glad I kept a paper trail!

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Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, if I were a bureaucrat and you claimed it was hardship to pay the mortgage and utilities on a second home you don’t live in, I’d probably say, Well, I guess you’ll just have to sell it or rent it out long term, then.

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Hi, I will speak with the attorney later this afternoon and set up an appointment with the Alderman. I was notified that I had to apply for a license through the City in 2021 and pay $125. I considered this --my terminology-- grandfathering because they granted me the license and didn’t ask for any information. It was this year that all hell broke loose! I don’t know if I had been able to renew without difficulty if it still would have happened.

It is a single-family home. When I filled out the Commissioner’s Adjustment I submitted letters of support from neighbors on both sides of the property in addition to stellar reviews from former guests. I spoke of the revitalization of the community, its designation in 2015 as a National Park, etc.

I am retired and it’s my supplemental income. Yes, I can rent it out, which I had in the past, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. If I have to rent it again I will and keep my fingers crossed that I find a good tenant.

I’ll let everyone know how it pans out.


I get that. If I have to rent it out, I will, however, I hope I won’t have to take that route again. I don’t own the home I live in.

Yes, I have a friend who used to rent a suite and a room in her home long term, but after getting burned by bad tenants who didn’t pay the rent or left piles of unwanted stuff for her to deal with when they moved out, or brought their domestic issues with their exes to her place, she went to str.

And I managed a small studio cabin next door to me for years that rented long term, and encountered the same thing. Finally a friend of mine was looking for a place and lived there for 4 years, which was the first time a tenant had actually taken good care of the place, watered the garden, and paid the rent on time, every time.

A good long-term tenant can be hassle-free gold, but a lot of people are skilled at presenting themselves well, only to turn out to be undesirable tenants.

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So, this is promising for you if you can show that but for the slow response from the City you would have qualified to renew your license. Surely an argument to make, also perhaps to your alderman (Anthony Beale?).

What I don’t understand is why you would have qualified to renew based on grandfathering unless you did have a license on that property as of 6/22/2016, which it appears you did not. Or did you? Or would you have qualified on some other basis?

If the City had a relationship with Airbnb as far back as 2016, I wasn’t notified when I opened my account with Airbnb in 2019. The first time I heard about the City being involved with Airbnb was November 2021 and it was to collect $125. I don’t know why I wasn’t asked to apply for a license then. I’m not the only Airbnb in the community; I believe there are five to six others. One is actually next door to me, although the owner said she planned to shut it down because she is too busy to keep up with the maintenance. She began operating it in 2016 and was never contacted by the City until 2021 too. She was also instructed to pay the $125 licensing fee. I spoke to two other Airbnb hosts in the community: one decided to forego all of this by operating on a month-to-month basis; the other experienced the same as me. She said it took a while but prevailed.

Alderman Beale’s Office is involved now, so the attorney and I agreed to hold off on their involvement. They said this has occurred several times in their Ward.

Absolutely!!! A good tenant is GOLD! Unfortunately, I had a tenant who was a hoarder. Yikes! It broke my heart every time I had to go over there. Didn’t pay rent on time either. Thankfully, she didn’t have bugs or rodents! After six years, I couldn’t take it any longer and asked her to leave. I’ve had a couple of companies book it for employees on assignment for work, which was great too.