Regulations have been drafted in the largest city in western Massachusetts to govern short-term housing rentals like those offered through online booking agents.
Under legislation being considered by the Springfield City Council, a short-term rental host must be the primary owner-occupant of the property and will need to obtain a yearly permit from the city following an initial inspection and the filing of a parking plan.
City Councilor Jesse Lederman, the lead sponsor, said the goal is to support the growing short-term rental market, which he said brings visitors to Springfield, while also protecting the integrity of the city’s residential neighborhoods.
"To make sure these operations are owner-occupied, safe for the guests staying in them, and that they don't overtake the neighborhood in an inappropriate way," Lederman said in an interview.
Property-owners caught not following the rules could face a $300 fine.
Massachusetts began taxing short-term housing rentals last year at the same 5.7 percent rate as a hotel room and required hosts to register and carry a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance. Local governments are free to set their own rules on short-term rentals.
About 100 property owners in Springfield have registered with the state as short-term rental hosts.
"If we do see a community becoming saturated, we reserve the right to cap the number of licenses in that area," Lederman said.
Under the proposed regulations in Springfield tenants would not be allowed, even with their landlord’s permission, to sublet their unit short-term.
"When you put in an extra layer it raises a number of questions," said Lederman.
City Councilor Melvin Edwards said the proposed regulations will prohibit corporate owners from obtaining permits to offer short-term rentals in Springfield.
"These are residential neighborhoods and we don't want them commercialized," said Edwards, who added it would be a "nonstarter" for the city to license LLCs as short-term rental hosts.
Representatives of the Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley have objected to some of the proposed regulations including the owner-occupancy requirement.
But Jim Boone, a homeowner in the city’s picturesque McKnight Neighborhood, urged speedy adoption of the short-term rental regulations.
"I am very in favor of Airbnbs, but there haven't been any rules, said Boone.
The council’s General Government Committee voted to recommend the full City Council give first-step approval to the proposed regulations and then return the ordinance to committee where it could be amended.
The city will collect a 5.3 percent tax on short-term rentals. Still to be decided is if the city will levy an additional 3 percent impact fee.