My township and neighbors strike again!

There are many Airbnb battles being waged across the country and they aren’t all about specific activities of the guests are who parks where. Many are more wide-ranging quality of life issues like crumbling neighborhoods and communities, property values and affordable housing. You don’t mention specifically where you live, how tight the housing market is or whether it is easy for families to find affordable housing. If this is a investment property for you that doesn’t house a family there could be economic resentment. These could be factors in your neighbors motivation.

I stated on my original post that I own and live on my property. It’s not in an HOA. I’m a small town in the philadelphia suburbs. There’s no shortage of housing as there’s many houses on the market.

Same circumstance as before! Really… What has changed? Someone called, someone came out and left a card and that is it. If they wanted to shut you down, they would have cited you on the spot.

I say ignore. Ignore until you get a citation that is real. A business card can’t enforce squat.


Oh my jeez. What a situation it would have be for you!

It appears to me that your home is in Levittown (Middletown Twp.), Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
If that is correct, then under that code, then renting a room in a house probably falls under the “bed and breakfast” part of the code.
I have learned all of this through involvement with our code and zoning. The Zoning Director interprets and enforces and fines violations. They will need to send you a certified letter, and not a business card, in order to begin enforcement and fines. You are correct; you need to band together, but changes to code take years to enact. Nothing happens quickly in local government except the ability to enforce.
The Bed and Breakfast organization of Bucks County is very powerful, and will certainly lobby to stop home sharing.
It is the most common thing around for a neighbor to tattle.
I am sorry; I have been dealing with this kind of issue for almost 7 years now and it will raise it’s head at council…again…in 2017. Very painful. All transient rentals, sharing economy, airbnbs, exist at the discretion and whim of our local govts.

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Yes, that is where my home is. I’m curious how you found it?

I didn’t see anything in my codebooks that renting a room is a home is called a bed and breakfast. We were told we were operating tourist houses, which a code for that came out in June of tho year, but I started Airbnb long before that. I never knew anything about this bed and breakfast club either. We have a code that allows up to 5 unrelated adults in a single-family home, but a house with parents who have 6 kids is OK. It took the township just a couple months to come out with this transient housing code.

I found it because you spell your name unusual - “Karin”

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I just saw that website and maybe they think Airbnb is taking their customers away so this organization is outrages and is trying to shut down Airbnb listings.

I thought the township makes the decision, when someone said take it to the county, I wondered if the county could really make a township change an ordinance, unless these people know something I don’t. But I agreed with that person about continuously fighting the township would cause them to change ordinances against us rather than for us, especially if its just a small number of us fighting.

Some hosts especially those that are new and haven’t had a lot of bookings, may think its not worth it and take their listing down.

I’m fighting it because I’ve been doing it for almost 2 years and it has gone very well, it kept me financially stable and helped me avoid having to sell my house.

Ugh…im sorry to hear this crap started back up again.

This is what’s going to be the kiss of death for Airbnb and other STR platforms. People will be reluctant to book because they will fear the host will have to cancel the reservations due to local government issues.

Yes, I feared that this past summer when I stayed at an Airbnb in Ireland. The host had one automated message about a cancelled reservation some number of days before arrival. He kept reservations after that so possibly he learned something after that cancelled reservation.

i’m afraid I may get those automated messages on mine and lose not just my superhost status but my Airbnb reputation, and not count on bookings for a while even if I can continue STR’s eventually. If I show Airbnb that I was forced to cancel them because of the township, maybe it won’t show that message?

No not again! But yes you are right, once you get a visit from code enforcement, they eventually return, sometimes it can take almost a year. That is correct that something like this wont just vanish into thin air. This must have had you walking on eggshells for a long time.

That is wrong for the neighbors to take photos of your guests cars. Who knows how long they’ve been watching over you even before this whole ordeal began.

If they are still doing it, the maybe they have their own secrets to hide and “loving up” to code enforcement? If they are still doing it, maybe you can get the police involved. Repeated watching/photographing of you/your property has to turn into harassment or stalking at some point.

A few questions and suggestions…

  1. What did the note say from the code enforcement officer?
  2. Suggest that you and your group go in and have a friendly talk with your zoning administrator and explain the benefits of airbnb to your community which are many.
  3. You should be able to FOIA info on the complaint and find our who is taking pictures. Then send that person a friendly letter that you are not doing anything illegal and ask them to please stop hassling you.
  4. Where do you live? State/township
  5. Since you are not doing anything against the zoning code I do not see why you would have to change anything with respect to your airbnb activities.
  6. Does your state have a special tax exemption for your principal residence like we do in Michigan. So in Michigan you pay a certain classification tax based on your primary residence. If you own a second home it is taxed at 2X. So some of us in my county successfully fought our assessor when she pulled our PRE (principal residence exemption) and our taxes went up by 2X. They tried to claim we were a rental property. The Michigan Tax Tribunal sided with us after our court hearing and the township reinstated our 100% PRE and corrected the tax records which showed us as delinquent.
  7. If new zoning laws are enacted preventing short term rentals you still will most likely be able to continue as a “legal non-conforming” use. At least that is how it works here in Michigan in that if you have a legal property or use and the zoning laws change if is a change for new properties or users. Your previous legal use is allowed as a "legal non-conforming use.

Good luck and fight back
Curt Peterson

It was a business card with a handwritten message saying “please call me”. I responded to it and I get the same thing “your property is not zoned to do this” but did not indicate there were further complaints. I’m sure there was and she’s not telling me, otherwise why would she suddenly resurface after 6 months. I was also not told of any motive behind the neighbors taking pictures of my guest’s cars.

I have done that, and they do not care and just do not want to listen. This is an old-fashioned town with Soviet-era code books. None of them have a clue what Airbnb is.

I am speaking with a lawyer to see if I can get information on why these people complained in the first place and who is taking pictures of my guests’ cars, and why. I also will find out how long it has been going on for, and if it is still going on, it has to turn into harassment or stalking at some point.

I am in Middletown Twp., Bucks County, PA.

I started Airbnb long before this transient housing ordinance came out. From what I read, owner-occupied properties are not transient housing. I keep being accused of operating a “tourist house” in a residential zone.

Not that I am aware of, but I can look into it. I know the state of PA started collecting occupancy taxes from guests, starting July 1, and remits them to the state on behalf of the host. My listing is my primary residence, and I still had to register with my county and pay hotel taxes quarterly.

That’s what I thought too, since as I said I started this before the ordinance came out. Before that it said nothing about short-term rentals, which they define as “transient” or “tourist” houses. They came up with the accusation of “operating a business in a residential zone” just for the mere fact I’m generating income. And it’s not considered “making a profit” as almost all my earnings go towards my regular living expenses.


Good for you… You have taken appropriate actions. I do not think you need a lawyer yet. Most of this you can do on your own and from what you describe as what you have done I believe you can do it. Suggestions:

  1. Determine what is the definition of home business in your township zoning ordinance. I doubt that you fall under that. That is apparently what they may potentially go after you for. So (I used to be on a zoning commission in Connecticut) if that is the case their potential action would be to issue you with a zoning violation and most likely a $500 per event penalty. It is all in your zoning code to verify what they may go after you for and how much.
  2. You do not need a lawyer to ask for a FOIA of your record regarding the complaint(s) by neighbors. Just fill out the paper work to see every and all complaints against you. Our group in Michgan filled out the form and filled it. The Twp came back and said come in a talk. They answered most of our questions in a friendly manner.
  3. The zoning enforcement officer only does what he/she is told. So a twp officer or board member or town planner has told him/her how to proceed. You should entertain a meeting with the twp planner or twp board and come with your other allies. Be cordial and explain why you feel you are legal and request that they back off. Also explain why this is economically beneficial to your community. This should not be contentious. These people are there to work for you and they should. You pay their salary.
  4. A restatement of above is to determine the definition of business operating out of a home.

Good luck and keep us up to date. You might (joke but maybe not a joke) start a defense fund from fellow Airbnb hosts since we don’t get much help from corporate.

In our cases we had 2 owners here in Traverse City Michigan who got our PRE’s revoked with no notice (at least your enforcement officer has given you notice which is great in that you are talking) and so all of a sudden we get a letter saying our PRE is revoked and then the next week we get a bill for double our property tax. At one point we were $8K in arrears. But we told them to pound sand. It took over 11 months but the Michigan Tax Tribunal judge heard our case and went by ONLY what was the law and not what our township wanted or believed. It was law only which is what it would be in your case as well.

I think you have very minimal downside but if I have some spare time will look over the zoning laws in your twp. I am not a lawyer but this stuff pisses me off.


Curt Peterson

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What zone classification is your home listed for in Middletown Pa.?


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My zoning code is R-2

So a quick look at R2 and general zoning. I find no definition of Bed and Breakfast in your zoning ordinance. Can you fine one.

In R2 “no impact based business” is allowed

Transient dwelling unit is defined as a lodging for between 6 and 16 persons. You are not that.

I at a quick look do not see what they can legally go after you for. It makes no sense. I really feel your group should go into township offices and have a meeting with your supervisor and town planner and hash this out in a friendly manner. Keep it friendly. They work for you not the other way around. Our township was friendly with us when we requested a meeting even after having initiated legal proceedings against us. I will look some more at this. Curt

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How is Airbnb a no impact home business ?

I’m not American but a quick search of ‘no impact home business’ and I can see the customers should not be coming on site and technically should have no impact on neighbours.

You can bet your nelly it was a neighbour that complained in this case…no doubt that’s what the photos were for …

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