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Lorain may look to reign in short-term rental properties, provide oversight

Posted at 4:40 PM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 19:11:41-04

LORAIN, Ohio — Lorain city leaders are looking to potentially add more oversight to the growing number of short-term rentals scattered across the city before it becomes a long-term problem.

The City Council’s Building and Lands Committee held an extensive hearing this week regarding the continued issues with short-term rental properties being used for popular online services like AirBnB and Vrbo. The majority of the estimated 70 short-term rental properties are located at or near the lake in Ward 1. The growing number of these properties used for short-term rentals has been a point of frustration for neighbors like Robert Stein.

Stein purchased his home on East Erie Ave. as well as a duplex next door nearly a decade ago. For nine of those 10 years, the neighborhood has been quiet and peaceful. That was, until, his next-door neighbors sold their home and the new owners began using it as a short-term rental.

“The big thing I think for this is that people are concerned about security. They have businesses that are owned by people that are… in some cases out of state, who are, perhaps, never even visiting the properties,” Stein said. “The short-term tenants don’t know the rules and they have no reason to follow them even if they did know them.”

Stein can recall a number of aggravating instances involving short-term renters, particularly an incident in which a renter trespassed on his property in order to access the lakefront.

“It’s an unregulated business,” Stein said. “Nobody knows them. They don’t know the regulations. Nobody is enforcing it. Nobody knows anything about them. It seems like a recipe for several kinds of disaster.”

At-Large city councilwoman, Mary Springowski, who chairs the Building and Lands Committee, said her research has turned up around 70 short-term rentals being actively advertised on services like Airbnb. However, she admits that it’s likely there are more rentals out there.

“That’s just the ones that we know of,” Springowski said. “These are businesses that are cropping up in residential areas. They want to be able to operate without taxation, without rules, without oversight, without licensing.”

At Monday’s meeting, a number of residents lamented about large parties, loud guests, trash and other disturbances coming from the rental properties. Springowski said the short-term rental owners can often hail from out of state. Instead of having a vested interest in the quality of life of the neighborhood, the homes are viewed solely as profit centers, she said.

“We’re not talking about a home. This is a short-term rental, the same as a hotel and motel would be, and should be subject to the same regulation and licensing. They should also be subject to some zoning,” Springowski said. “We are trying to protect our neighborhoods. We owe that to the residents that are here permanently.”

Although a number of options are still being considered, Springowski said the council is contemplating drafting regulatory legislation aimed at providing oversight of the short-term rental units. City leaders have also discussed forcing short-term rental property owners to apply for zoning variances.

Whatever the city opts to do, Springowski said it will be done in an effort to strike the right balance between looking out for long-term residents while also showcasing Lorain as a welcoming city for visitors and tourists.

“We want to work in harmony with these businesses but they have to be respectful of our permanent residents,” Springowski said.