New rules for house, bedroom rentals?
Short-term residential lodging rentals might seem an easy way to make extra income from an unoccupied bedroom or empty house near Lambeau Field, but that doesn't mean landlords will escape regulation.
It is an issue proliferating across the country, though not an especially new one. Winnebago County addressed unlicensed lodging providers two years ago in relation to EAA AirVenture. Property owners often use such websites at Airbnb and HomeAway to market availability, but those that do so under the radar are drawing scrutiny.
The Brown County Room Tax Commission wants municipalities to crack down on unlicensed transient residential facilities (TRFs) and is planning an all-hands meeting to help them do so.
"It's our job to ensure things are being reported and collected," said Jason Hager, commission chairman and general manager of Tundra Lodge Resort in Green Bay.
A check of websites Airbnb and HomeAway indicated about 130 TRFs in the Green Bay metro area. Ashwaubenon, which now is wrestling with how to regulate TRFs, approved two houses, but identified a handful of others listed online.
Hotels and motels are concerned about unfair competition, governments about uncollected taxes and potentially unsafe conditions, and neighbors about what might be happening next door. Unlicensed TRFs have a range of issues, including insurance coverage, and potential safety and health problems.
"We've talked to people who assumed homeowner's insurance covered them," said Brad Toll, president and CEO of the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Homeowner's insurance will run the other way."
Ashwaubenon President Michael Aubinger said municipalities will be held accountable.
"The first B and B that burns down and somebody gets hurt, it's going to be 'where was the municipality?'" Aubinger said.
Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach recommended that conditional-use permits for TRFs require a county health inspection and permit, which is something each municipality would have to individually write into its ordinances. One of the goals of the Room Tax Commission's summit meeting would be to provide municipalities with a template for doing so.
Restricting TRFs might create issues of fairness. Ashwaubenon trustee Gary Paul said people should be able to sell their homes when they receive good offers, but neighboring homeowners also should know what they are waking up to every morning.
"You can't just say yes to one and no to the one next door. That's very hard to do," trustee Ken Bukowski said.
Several residents at a recent Ashwaubenon Plan Commission meeting asked not to be left out if TRF proposals come calling.
"Our options have changed now because of the (Titletown District)," said Carolyn Waring, who lives on Blue Ridge Drive.
Aubinger said if an area is zoned for TRFs, it soon will fill up with them. Waring said if TRFs are approved on a case-by-case basis, "you're going to get a public hearing and everyone is going to come up against it without hearing all the discussion."
Communities define — and even name — TRFs differently. In Ashwaubenon, they are sometimes confused with Packers Party Houses, which are for their owners' personal use. TRFs are not necessarily near Lambeau Field.
Aubinger said the Green Bay Packers' Titletown District and more events in the area will increase demand for TRFs.
"This will grow and morph into something much bigger than what it is now," he said. "You have to think of the future and this could become very large."