Editorial: Rental rules are reasonable

The city of Lawrence is headed down the right path on new policies governing short-term rentals in the city.

At a meeting Tuesday, Lawrence city commissioners directed staff to develop regulations for short-term rentals — those listed on websites like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO — requiring the property owners to obtain special use permits to operate short-term rentals that the property owners don’t also reside in. The special use permit would only be required for short-term rentals not occupied by the property owner.

At present, the city’s zoning regulations prohibit short-term rentals. But a recent check of listings on Airbnb showed 180 short-term rentals listed in Lawrence. More than 60 percent of the Lawrence listings were for the entire home as opposed to a room in an owner-occupied home.

The special use permit review process takes three months and costs $725, city staff said. The permit goes to the planning commission for review. That process includes a public notice and a public hearing, providing neighbors the opportunity to address concerns prior to the permit being issued.

The process also would give the city the power to revoke the special use permit in cases where the property is a source of repeat complaints regarding noise, trash, parking or other concerns.

“The neighborhood has the opportunity to voice their concerns and make their case known,” Commissioner Lisa Larsen said.

Property owners who want to list a portion of the home in which they live as nightly rentals will not need permits, but will have to be licensed and inspected.

Owners of all short-term rentals would be responsible for collecting and remitting all applicable taxes, according to the draft. Property owners would also have to provide proof of insurance, provide notices to neighbors with instructions for filing a complaint and conform to current occupancy limits.

The proposed regulations are similar to those in place for other types of rental properties in the city. They serve as a reasonable approach to balancing the rights of property owners with the concerns of neighboring residents. The rules should be finalized and approved.