Trying to operate along with dozens of others in a town with regulations in flux

Does anyone have any tips on how to survive while the town debates regulations. Our town seems to be most aggressively targeting non-owner-occupied single-family, with possible implementation of requirement for a special permit. The Building Inspector makes pronouncements about what is and is not “legal” or “illegal” under state law and says virtually all STRs in state are “illegal” and he is only going to allow “legal” - so, e.g., lots of units would need sprinkler systems. This town has lots of empty houses needing rehab.

Restrict your booking window to just a few months out


I think PitonView’s advice is excellent.

Also, I suggest that you attend whatever town meetings you can, and speak up—respectfully—if it’s appropriate.


Advice on restricting booking window and attending meetings is all sound. At the meetings what I would aim for is getting exceptions for owner occupied or a limited number of units in a building. You might also try to get grandfathered.


Are there meetings where you can attend and voice your opinion?

Might it be productive to meet with your representative to give your view, perhaps on new legislation?

Are there alternative views on the legality of STRs there or is it cut and dried?

What state, town is this?

Yes when areas which are over saturated in with short term lets introduce regulations they tend to target absent investor landlords @bjalexander

It doesn’t matter that the town has lots of empty houses, unless your local government or the private sector has funds to bring them back into use.

The advice around only opening your calendar three months ahead is a good as well as working with others in your position to lobby for the changes you would like to see to the proposed legislation.

If you’re comfortable with letting us know, what state / town are you hosting in?

Sure – North Adams, MA

I go to all sorts of City Council meetings. What surprises me is that NO other hosts are there. I know there are others watching via an email group. But they never show up. At all. Maybe they live elsewhere? Anyhow, I’ve delisted my property as of today. I may continue to go to town forums for a time, but I’m not going to continue to stick my neck out on my own. i’m just puzzled.

One thing you can do is write to (or meet) your city council member and share your views.

If you’re a home share host, be sure to make that distinction and why regulations affecting STRs should distinguish home share hosts from others. Most simply put, an STR for a home share host helps that homeowner/community member stay a homeowner/community member. Homeshare hosts typically don’t put strain on parking as household size usually no greater than when home was at its greatest number.

If you have one STR and are local regarding that you might make that distinction: local STR ‘single’ owners. Often owners of single STRs are local for part year or plan to be local one day (e.g., retirement).

I would suggest that the greatest threat, the most objections to STRs are STR owners who own MANY properties, thereby decreasing long-term rental supply and decreased civic commitment.

You might also suggest a rental registry so that as a first step the municipality can get data on the properties that are being rented out, who and where the owners are. That kind of data would inform next steps. The city of Worcester is considering a rental registry, not for the purpose of regulating STRs but for seeing that these properties are safe and compliant with the building code. Suggestions have been made to prioritize properties with multiple units, more than three.

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I own 4 entire homes that are STR.
I have 4 others that are LTR.
Only 1,of the STR would be considered suitable for LTR.
When I went into this business, I had a conversation with my town planner.
All of my listings are in the defined heritage area of my town. All of them are heritage listed.
My town planner stated that in order to maintain them and allowing public access to these buildings- STR was fine.
As an example of the costs of maintenance, I needed to replace gutters and downs pipes. Modern gutters with plastic down pipes $1500.
Appropriate historical gutters in the correct profile in galvanised iron and hand rolled soldered down pipes in imperial measurements
$5000. The building has beautiful correct guttering!


As a sometimes restorer of vintage motorcycles, having “correct” repairs and replacement parts is critical, if pricey. That extra expense pays off in subtle ways that no general ledger could appreciate.


This is expensive and potentially impossible. In your shoes I would talk to a master plumber about how much a retrofit system would cost.

Have you asked these other hosts on the email group why they are not participating?

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Not straight out. I encouraged people to come and just became more aware and puzzled. There’s a major hearing coming up that will probably be my last one since I pulled my listing down. (I had not intended to do an STR at all but fell into it when family housing arrangements got scrambled by covid. I’ve been using a small house as a part-time guest house for an old relative’s visitors, and the occasional rentals are a nice way to help cover expenses. But “rules and regulations” don’t understand all the ways we might be trying to help keep family with us, so, “here we are” as the saying goes.)

A lot of people don’t realize that short term rentals aren’t all non-owner occupied houses used exclusively for rentals, which are what you say it seems your local authorities are targeting. You may not want to expend the energy on it, considering you never intended to get into the str business, but it is helping you and your family, and your str guests are probably not disturbing anyone. If I were you, I would plead my case- you’re a member of the community trying to run a small-time business to make ends meet, that impacts no one in a negative way.


You have hit the nail on the head in almost all respects. I’ve come to understand there are lots of stories people have that make a lot of sense, and indeed, the town is considering a special permit process. A big looming problem about the permit process though is that they are also apparently considering allowing neighbors to have input, and I have a hostile neighbor. A REALLY hostile neighbor. In any such situation, an STR owner’s property value can be destroyed by such a random misfortune. In some cases, probably not mine, but one can imagine, anti-bias laws could be implicated. Personally, I do think the council is just not legally sophisticated enough to navigate these waters. So, I’ll probably just say my piece at the public hearing, and eventually move to a real city. (This town is a city only because it used to be bigger. It persists in trying to write laws but watching them try and then lose taxpayer money in lost court cases is a bit confounding, speaking as a taxpayer.) Anyhow, thanks for all the advice. It sounds like this forum has not had to operate in such an odd place!

The town/city counsels that municipalities hire are not always stellar! I think that people on this forum have had to operate in very uncertain regulatory times, but every town/city/state/country is different. Then you add in the different humans in each situation and it’s tough to get an apples to apples comparison.

I wouldn’t give up because of the hostile neighbor. It would be interesting to hear what the hostile neighbor says, whether the neighbor has FACTS or just judgments, fears, receptions of what the neighbor has read. The neighbor’s bias might become apparent.

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The OP didn’t say whether the neighbor had objections to the str- “REALLY hostile” could mean they are just neighbors from hell that would be a PITA in general, regardless of whether there was an str involved.