Zoning change by local officials

My town here in Vermont recently notified me that due to my Airbnb use of my free standing single family house, I had to apply for a zoning change of use from residential to commercial. This involved notifying neighbors and a public hearing ( plus an application fee of $325) I received an approved zoning change but was then required to have an inspection by State Inspector before an Occupancy Permit would be issued. The inspection was comprehensive and very thorough including window egress size in bedrooms, smoke and fire detectors, ground fault receptacles, railing, etc etc etc. Inspection fee was $125. I passed but I suspect many hosts will not pass and pricey upgrades will be required. Inspector mentioned a responsibility for hosts to provide a safe place for visitors. The whole process was stressful and delayed hosting for over 2 months.


That’s the wave of the future and has already hit many hosts. I’m pretty safety conscious and go over exits with guests, have smoke/CO2 detectors and fire extinguishers in every room plus. I also have the little diagrams on the back of the door like they have in hotels and a separate safety card with key numbers, etc. Guests have commented on the attention to safety. However, I live in fear that the local powers will someday require that I meet building code requirements that just won’t work in my historic home. They would put us out of business.


We too have to have (and pay for) annual inspections every time our license is renewed.

They have one or two weird requirements but it’s just one of those things that STR business owners have to do.

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Well, CR passed a law regulating STR, which requires all STR (now defined as any rental less than 365 days) to be fully handicapped accesible as outlined in law 7600, regardless of whether one rents one room, an entire apartment or a Treehouse … We are talking ramps, elevators, wide doorways, minimum turning space in the room . …
The potential of cost of that …crazy.

CR is not right there in a position to make sure that every STR is fully compliant or will be, but …
Here a link to an old post on that: Do airbnb hosts have to pay the new IVATax in Costa Rica?)

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An elevator to a treehouse? That’s daft.

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This is a PITA, but as it should be. Over time it will reduce the number of hosts but in the meantime many people will just host illegally. My city doesn’t have licensing yet and by the time they do I’ll probably be completely retired. But it would be interesting to see the process.


Agreed. I am tired of ‘competing’ with airbnbs that are illegal, with airbnbs ‘managed’ by mgmt companies that do minimal work, with airbnbs that lowball out of desperation, with airbnbs that are shoddy and dirty.


NYC is capitulating to the hotel industry by demanding regulations regarding our air bnb in Queens. Air bnb is fighting this but I’m afraid the hotel lobby is too strong. If anyone knows how we can organize and join the fight, let me know. This is my property and I have every right to rent it as I see fit.

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This was posted on the Airbnb CC forum today: NYC Registration Requirements - Airbnb Community

As for having every right to rent one’s property as they see fit, I don’t know of any laws which guarantee such a thing. Everyone everywhere has to comply with local regulations.


I comply with existing regulations. The increased scrutiny is meant to suppress air bnb in NYC in favor of the lucrative hotel industry. That’s my point.

Yes, I get that. So did you submit feedback re that link I posted? The host who posted it said only 200 NYC hosts had made submissions, which surprised and dismayed him, as it affects so many.

BTW, I wasn’t insinuating you weren’t complying with current regulations, just that it’s not true that just because we own a property we can run a business out of it. For instance, you can’t open a machine shop in a neighborhood zoned residential.

But I’m sorry that you might have your rental business impacted adversely.
In my town in Mexico, the taxi drivers’ mafia runs any Uber they see out of town. Except they use intimidation, not legislation.

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In my area, many local municipalities are in the process of implementing STR ordinances. The first draft for my town was…ridiculous. The current draft version has an annual inspection fee of $500. I am ok with the fee IF the inspections have “teeth” and will weed out the bad owners/managers.

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I did the same thing, when the room in my full time permanent residence was required to comply via zoning and use permit. It cost me $5000 in fees plus public hearing plus a lot of information packets to the planning commission. Yes, it was a hassle but it was so very important. All the inspections were done and we passed. We are of course required to have business insurance - it is a business, not a hobby, and we charge guests to stay here. It is appropriate that we be professional, legal and compliant. Compliance with the ordinance eliminates any unforeseen health and safety issues and any issues with neighbors. Fire safety is vital here and being in the hospitality business makes us responsible for the safety of guests in a fire, as well as any other safety or health issues. It was an education and it was excellent. The planners and the planning commission were very helpful, encouraging and it was obvious they wanted us to succeed. I’m so happy that your inspections were thorough. Public safety and public health are so important. As a guest I would like very much to stay in a place that is verified as safe and up to code. Congratulations to you and may all hosts be as conscientious and compliant.


Thank you for your comment. I completely agree, and I believe that 100% compliance and going beyond compliance to best safety and hospitality practices along with marketing in multiple channels, ideally with our own independent website, are our best defenses against a potential race to the bottom of the price/quality ladder.

To that end I’m trying to figure out how to make Breezeway’s 75 point safety checklist available here (no affiliation).

Of course, some municipalities can take a machete rather than a scalpel to craft their regulations, can fail to distinguish between home share hosts, between investors with multiple properties, between local and remote Hosts, between Hosts who do have or seek a connection with the area in which the STR is located.

@AlexSJ 'example is a good one, it seems, of a state that has gone too far.

To @Jcampbell 's point about what’s going on in NYC it seems enforcing compliance with the existing laws would serve the public interest but they’ve decided it’s less costly to the City to simply impose excessive burdens on STR owners (e.g., floor plans, no locks on doors that ‘separate the guest from the host’ and on and on) and appear to be more about protecting the few hotel owners while preventing price competition that might make tourism to NYC less costly, with benefits for the many. Airbnb got involved there and lost.

To the extent that STR Hosts skirt the law, fail to enforce party/event bans, disturb neighbors, poorly maintain the properties, are owned my investors who buy up 50+ properties and delegate that to a management company (reducing quality, maybe safety, and driving up local non-STR rental prices) there are going to be municipalities that regulate with too broad a bush.

So I think my focus is to run the STR we have with integrity, safety, a focus on both hospitality and the externalities (do our guests disturb the neighbors? take their parking?) and at the first notice of an interest in local regulation, to get involved.

Maybe I should be more proactive if I developed the reasoning and facts why my city should do x, y and z now, to start that dialog with my local representatives, but I really don’t know what I would propose other than a registration (and fee), a periodic safety and building code compliance inspection. This actually has been proposed for Worcester MA and I’ve written my supporting views on that to my representative.

I do think that if your STR business is important to you that it makes sense to follow your local politics, and write or meet with your representative now and then.

I’ll survive. Our property is in a highly desirable neighborhood near Manhattan and with wonderful restaurants and grocery stores. We offer a superior product to hotels and they know it. This is exactly how you eliminate completion. You legislate the completion away.

Yes, legislating the competition away is always effective.

But you can fulfill these onerous and annoying requirements now, right? So they won’t eliminate you?

I’m extremely safety conscious and have all the safety elements in place that I would have in my own home. My staff always quotes me saying “SAFETY FIRST!!” By your partial list, I’m already ahead of the curve in my area.

Take the challenge!

Here’s their 75-point checklist : Dropbox - 202212 Breezeway Safety Checklist.pdf - Simplify your life

WOW. That is extremely comprehensive! Challenge accepted! I’m going to grab my maintenance guy and go through this.

I am a bit disappointed in the pack-n-play suggestion at the end. I have a lot of families with infants that use them.

That is disappointing. Of course, you’re free not to accept their guidance, but it does make you think and consider alternatives like inspecting baby equipment carefully after each use AND providing a disclaimer in the listing AND providing a disclaimer on the pack and play, on boxes of kid toys, that kind of thing. Of course those kinds of actions might be somewhat helpful but they won’t eliminate the liability the way not having the crib or pack and play would.

There are risks in everything we do and in what we choose not to do. So, we all make our own judgments. None of us live a risk-free life.

One of the things that I liked was their very first recommendation – which I have planned to do after I’ve done everything that I see and have money left over. THAT is to get a really good certified home inspector, as if I were selling the property, to inspect the home. It’s amazing what a home inspector might find.

What I hadn’t thought of was to repeat the process every five years. Good idea.

Since you’re into safety, do you know about Ting? Go to https://www.tingfire.com

I got a discount from Proper insurance (even though it’s not their list of vendors) by installing this that pays for the service! I live in a 60 year old home where much of the wiring is old. I think this really makes sense to prevent electrical fires, especially in older homes.

And by the way do you turn your fire extinguishers upside down each month? Tamp the bottom? Inspect the nozzle and such? Write your initials on a tag attached to the extinguisher? Hmmmpf.

I don’t know about your local jurisdiction but in MA you need to get each fire extinguisher certified each year by an outside certifier. I don’t get mine certified each year; I hear it’s costly. But this is an example of no matter of what you’re doing you’re probably in violation of some law. A firewoman told me that the easiest way to be in compliance is just to buy new extinguishers each year. My takeaway is not be be too proud – somewhere you’re out of compliance with the law. If there’s an accident in that ballpark (here a fire) and that extinguisher fails, some lawyer will crucify you for it.