Councilor McCalla proposes a system of fines

NEWPORT – City Councilor Angela McCalla wants council and city administration to rekindle the public debate on short-term rentals in the city and the problems they cause.

She submitted a resolution now on the council’s agenda for Wednesday’s meeting that calls on the city to follow a “three strike policy” for owners of short-term rental properties. If they have been cited three times within three years for breach of the short-term rental internal regulations, their short-term rental registration will be revoked.

“I get a lot of phone calls about unrest in lower-income neighborhoods,” McCalla said. “This includes party houses and short-term tenants who are not respectful of the neighborhood. When people come here for vacation, they don’t necessarily understand all the rules. Owners need to make sure their guests know the rules about noise, garbage, parking – all the things people need to obey.

McCalla said she went back and read the Short-Term Rental Inquiry Panel report released in November 2018 and that was one of the recommendations. The group was formed by the Planning Board and led by Jeff Brooks, now vice chairman of the board.

“It is the usual violation of existing ordinances that creates a negative atmosphere and causes disruption in neighborhoods and the housing market,” the group said at the conclusion of its report outlining the corrective measures the city should take.

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“Lack of proper regulation or limited enforcement of existing ordinances can cause tension or hostility between short-term homeowners and their neighbors,” McCalla’s resolution states.

If short-term rental landlords are cited by a city zoning officer or police officer, resulting in a fine, that would be a violation and there should be no more than three in three years, he said. she declared.

Angela McCalla

Her recommendation would only be a first step in resolving issues with short-term rentals, she said. She hopes her colleagues on the board bring the issue to a workshop where her proposal and other suggestions could be discussed.

Her resolution begins by outlining some of the other broader concerns surrounding short-term rentals.

“Converting residential units to short-term rentals may result in decreased availability of affordable housing and long-term rental options, as well as higher rents for long-term tenants in the community,” c This is how the resolution begins.

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There is general concern about the “Airbnb effect,” which means homes are taken off the road and reserved for short-term rental.

McCalla said the investigative group report is a resource that should be part of “due diligence” for future discussions.

The inquiry group held seven meetings from June to September 2018, and Newport owners who operate short-term rental businesses participated in the discussions. People opposed to short-term rentals due to an increase in Airbnb rentals in their neighborhoods also spoke at the meetings.

There should be a fine of at least $ 1,000 for renting unregistered housing, the report says, and fines should increase for landlords who continue to illegally advertise or rent without registering. , according to the report. Separately, there would be fines for owners of registered units who do not properly manage units.

McCalla noted that his resolution is only for homeowners who have registered their short-term rental property. It is a common complaint that there are many more listings for short-term rentals in the city on websites like Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway and others than there are records of such. properties. If this is true, there would be many owners who would not bother to go through the registration process.

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“This resolution does not address unregistered short-term rentals, but it’s a good stepping stone to start talking about it,” she said. “The other council members have a lot of ideas, as well as the municipal staff. That’s why we need a public workshop.

In early July, Governor Dan McKee vetoed a bill that would have required owners of short-term rental properties to register their businesses with the state. The bill was sponsored in the House by State Representative Lauren Carson (D-Newport) and in the Senate by State Senator Dawn Euer (D-Newport). Lawmakers were responding to community concerns that it was difficult to monitor where short-term rentals are located.

There have been other council resolutions that have attempted to address the issue of short term rentals.

City Councilor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, now mayor, sponsored a resolution in March 2020 calling for a separate property tax classification for unoccupied residential properties that are used for short-term rentals. If it had been approved by the board, it would have required the approval of the General Assembly before it could be implemented.

“If a landlord bought a house to use for short term rentals, that person should be taxed accordingly,” she said at the time. “They’re basically running a business, but I’m not sure if they should be paying the commercial tax rate. What the tax rate should be on short-term rental homes is something we should be talking about. . “

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Before Napolitano tabled this resolution, Councilor Jamie Bova, then mayor, sponsored a resolution in February 2020 that would ask the General Assembly to allow the city to set separate tax rates for residential properties occupied by their owner and non-owner occupied residential properties. Napolitano felt it was too broad because it may have included seasonal second homes that people have.

McCalla said those previous resolutions required enabling state legislation that is hard to come by.

“I want to see what we can do at the municipal level,” she said. “We need to have a more in-depth discussion. “

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