House-sharing is not a crime | News, Sports, Jobs
House sharing is popular in the Adirondacks. Many visitors to Saranac Lake enjoy staying in historic residential neighborhoods, vacation cabins, downtown apartments, and other welcoming places. They rent out these homes through online services such as Airbnb, Vrbo, Adirondack “By the owner,” New York Rental By Owner and others.
Clients who share a flat share say they love the feeling of being part of the community, discovering what makes it special and having a unique experience. A hotel stay is a cookie cutter, pretty much the same whether you are in Saranac Lake or Scottsdale. Health-conscious guests like being able to cook their own meals, and cost-conscious guests like being able to stay longer because they pay a lower price for their vacation. In fact, a nationwide Airbnb study showed that guests generally stay longer at destinations (five vs. 2.8 nights) and spend 2.1 times more money in the local community than tourists staying in hotels. This means more spending at local businesses which is what Saranac Lake needs.
Many villagers benefit from the opportunity to earn money from the shared properties they own. Unfortunately, that could all change soon. The village plans to enact bylaws that will restrict the basic constitutional rights of owners and guests. The right to lease one’s property on a short-term basis is a fundamental privilege of private landlords, especially where, like at Saranac Lake, short-term rental is an established practice and a historically permitted use. Regulations that seek to prohibit assemblies on private property regardless of the peaceful nature or purpose of the assembly violate the constitutional right of owners and guests to freedom of assembly.
Let us look at some of the proposed regulations. Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the proposed rules distinguish shared accommodation as a separate property category from hotels / motels, bed and breakfasts, long-term rentals, or commercial and residential properties. The new requirements that will apply ONLY to Home Shares and none of the other types of properties are:
¯ Purchase an annual permit based on the number of rooms, the proceeds of which will be used to finance Short Term Rental Tracking (STR) software.
¯ Provide the emergency phone number of someone who lives within a 30-minute drive of the property.
¯ Homeowners must sign an affidavit certifying that they meet building codes and other health and safety standards.
¯ Homeowners must ensure quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., garbage must be stored in a discreet place with weekly collection and a house number must be visible from the street.
¯ Occupancy limited to two people per room plus two additional people if baby cots or pull-out sofas are available.
¯ Tenants must sign an agreement to comply “Good community rules.”
¯ The owners must submit a parking plan to give to the tenants and deposit it with the village.
Frankly, I have a problem with ALL of these proposed rules.
The village said shared owners will pay a permit fee to fund STR tracking software. Homeowners will have to fund the same system that identifies, monitors, and controls their legal small businesses. It’s like we live in China, not the United States. What other small businesses does the village follow in this way?
The cost of permits is also troublesome. The village is considering a fee of $ 200 for the more expensive permit, with two more levels becoming more and more expensive. If, as the village has indicated, the annual cost of the software is $ 4,700 and there are 125 shared units in the village, the unit cost of the permit should be $ 37.60. Where would the remaining $ 162.40 go?
Other rules, such as providing emergency contacts, saying building codes are followed, and keeping the peace and quiet of the community seem like good ideas. In fact, these are such great ideas that owners of hotels / motels, bed and breakfasts, long term rentals, commercial and residential properties should be required to do the same.
I know a villager who lives in an apartment with serious code violations: black mold covers the ceiling, the electrical outlets next to the sinks are not GFI, the torn linoleum presents a tripping hazard and others health and safety issues are clearly visible. The owner is aware of the problems and does nothing. We probably all know apartments in town like this. In fact, I lived through it when I moved here! The selection of shared owners to apply these rules to is based solely on their classification. Other business and home owners should be subject to the same rules. If it’s good for one, it’s good for everyone.
Likewise, occupancy limits, agreements to be respected “Good community rules” and parking plans should apply to every type of property in the village if they apply to any of them. I know of landlords who continually suffer from issues with tenants breaking into their property, garbage, noise, parking issues and harassment. They are long-term tenants, not roommates.
As a downtown building owner, I continually have to get rid of the waste left on my property (mattresses, furniture, refrigerator!). Cleaning the dog poop outside my building door is a constant battle. I sincerely doubt that shared tenants commit these violations of “Good community rules.”
Shared tenants rely on income from the legal and legitimate use of their property. The village should not prohibit or restrict the use or regulate the sharing of dwellings based solely on their classification, use or occupancy. Myself and other shared tenants in the village support a law to regulate shared rentals if the regulations are:
¯ Closely tailored to protect public health and safety
¯ Based on verifiable data describing problems caused by shared rentals only and not by other types of properties
¯ Applies equally to ALL types of properties that cause the same problems.
While the harm the regulation would inflict on shared tenancy owners is real and significant, the alleged benefits are speculative at best. In a later letter, I will discuss the weakness of the village in adopting the new rules.
Rushing to pass unfair and unconstitutional regulations without first identifying and addressing the LEGITIMATE concerns that such rentals may present is overbreadth and an abuse of power. It should not be tolerated by any resident of Saranac Lake who values their rights under our Constitution.
Calli Shelton lives in Saranac Lake.