Short-term rental properties under scrutiny
By Kevin Elliott
Legislation intended to protect individual property owners’ rights by stripping local governments’ ability to eliminate short-term rental homes, such as Airbnbs, was the topic of discussion on Monday, June 14, during an hour-long workshop with Birmingham city commissioners.
Bills introduced in both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives would focus on local zoning ordinances, specifically prohibiting those that would ban or prevent short-term rentals. If enacted, the laws would require many governments to revise their zoning laws to comply with the changes.
Birmingham City Attorney Mary Kucharek explained short-term rentals are those that are less than 30 days.
“There was an argument that they could be considered commercial (properties) and not residential,” Kucharek said. “The legislature is saying that both (types of property), but mostly short-term rentals, aren’t a commercial business.”
A June 2020 ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court partially addressed restrictions against short term rentals, in that it found that short-term occupancy of a single-family dwelling by a traditional family is considered a residential use. The ruling specifically differentiated between the “transient” relationship of the occupants to each other, and not the period of time they occupy a home.
Birmingham commissioner Clinton Baller said he believes much of the concern about shortterm rentals relates to a fear of strangers and the transient nature of those rentals.
“There is a fear of strangers that neighbors have,” he said. “I would like to address that. How do you address that concern?”
Birmingham Building Official Bruce Johnson said the city’s current ordinances address noise and nuisance issues in its rental ordinance, which includes requirements, inspections and licenses for rental properties, regardless of the length of occupation.
Under the city’s rental ordinance, any dwelling advertised for lease or rent must be licensed through the city. Annual licenses are issued by the city, which sets limits on occupancy based on the number of bedrooms and square footage.
Johnson said there are 1,162 apartments; 470 single-family homes; 426 condominiums; 50 duplexes; 21 half duplexes and about seven known short-term rentals in the city. Of the seven known short-term rentals, at least four are licensed, he said.
“My biggest concern would be identifying them,” commissioner Rackeline Hoff. “Not just short-term, but all rentals.”
Birmingham City Manager Tom Markus said the next step in the discussion is to identify the number and location of short-term rentals in the city and ensure they are being licensed and following the rental ordinance.
“We will contact those we can identify and let them know they would be recognized as a short-term rental, and would be required to have a license from us going forward,” Markus said.