LYNN — Short-term rentals, including Airbnbs, were legalized by the City Council on Tuesday night.
The council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that permits certain residences to be registered as short-term rentals within the city, with the exception of those located within R1-zoned districts, or residential areas that don’t allow businesses.
Homes that have been deemed “problem properties,” or have been cited for numerous building and health code violations would also be excluded, according to Assistant City Solicitor James Lamanna.
Although not technically legal, as there was “nothing on the books” prior to the new ordinance, rentals and Airbnbs previously could have been located anywhere in Lynn unless city officials received complaints from neighbors, Lamanna said.
There are currently 47 short-term rentals operating in Lynn that have been registered with the state, according to the Department of Revenue.
“It was kind of the wild west when it came to them, other than we had a thing in our ordinance regarding rooming and lodging houses,” said Ward 2 Councilor Rick Starbard. “We really had nothing in there as far as those went.”
Starbard said he began receiving a lot of complaints about Airbnbs and other short-term rentals in his ward when he started on the City Council in 2018. He said neighbors were having issues with people arriving at those rental units late at night and sometimes ringing the wrong doorbells because they weren’t sure exactly where they were staying.
Neighbors also reported the people, who in many cases were tourists on vacation, were loud, which presented a problem for otherwise quiet neighborhoods, Starbard said.
“People move into those neighborhoods for peace and quiet, not to have a business running out of next door. I certainly wouldn’t want to have a hotel-like business running in my neighborhood,” said Starbard, who suggested the amendment to the new ordinance that would keep short-term rentals out of non-business residential neighborhoods.
Starbard said it took about a year of working with the city’s law department and Inspectional Services Department to alleviate the problem with short-term rentals in Ward 2, which were not allowed by city ordinance.
Much of the problem was there was not language that outlined what was and wasn’t allowed, in terms of rentals, which meant that the ones that were operated were not regulated, he said. Property owners could choose to term their rental units, “rooming houses” or “lodging houses,” which were allowed by city ordinance, he said.
Starbard said he determined that the short-term rentals that were causing problems in his ward were not allowed, but the only time city officials shut them down was if there were complaints from the neighborhood.
“This kind of just cleans everything up,” said Starbard. “This definitely cleans up the language by putting in short-term rental because that’s what Airbnb and those types of businesses are.”
Now that the ordinance has been approved, which allows Lynn property owners to operate short-term rentals in primary residences, second homes and investment properties, the City Council will consider whether to implement a higher lodging tax on those businesses.
Lynn’s current lodging tax is 4 percent, but state law allows the city to tax Airbnbs and other short-term rentals up to 9 percent, according to Lamanna, who briefed the council on the local option tax Tuesday night.
The Department of Revenue collects taxes from short-term rentals who register with the state. Based on the 47 short-term rentals that are currently registered with the state, Lynn received a share of approximately $25,000 from the DOR in the last year, Lamanna said.
“All that’s left is to give thought to what we think that (tax) should be.” said Starbard. “We will ultimately come up with a number.”