April 30, 2018

On May 7 Minnetrista’s city council is considering an ordinance to ban short-term rentals (defined as less than 30 days). There are two sides on this issue, residents who want the ban because of unruly renters and residents that don’t because they rent out their homes. I’ve been getting emails for several weeks from both sides, have talked with many of them and honestly sympathize with them all. I believe residents that manage their properties responsibly and are considerate of their neighbors in making sure renters are properly vetted should be allowed to continue renting their properties. I also believe that irresponsible property owners that use irresponsible vacation rental companies and continually cause problems for neighbors should be fined and after a warning should not be allowed to do it anymore.

What is the magnitude of the problem in Minnetrista and what should the remedy be? The remedy, obviously, should be relative to the magnitude of the problem but the city doesn’t know how big the problem is because we haven’t been tracking it. I asked the city to tell me how many citations have been issued over the last three years relative to short term rental properties and the answer was, basically, they don’t know. I asked how many complaints have been called in to the city over the last three years due to short-term rentals and the answer was they really couldn’t say since it’s difficult to know whether or not calls to a specific property were related to the short-term rental usage (i.e., they don’t keep track of that information). Are these complaints coming from one or two properties? Five? Twenty? We don’t know because we haven’t been keeping track.

I know people want this issue dealt with quickly but a hasty decision to impose a ban is likely to harm responsible property owners that are good neighbors and rely on rental income to make ends meet. My guess is most wealthy people don’t rent their homes. Those not so well off, however, may depend on that income for their very survival. I think we owe it to them to at least take the time to measure the scale of this problem so we can arrive at a measured, appropriate response to it.

I believe it would be appropriate to spend the next year tracking Minnetrista short-term rental properties by identifying them on the top vacation rental sites, and tracking complaints about noise, drugs, assaults, even parking violations associated with these properties. If we find it’s a wide-spread problem on a large number of properties we can remedy it accordingly with either a ban or requiring a license and enforcing new regulations. If we find a small handful of properties are the problem I think we need to issue citations and fines for the behavior, not only to perpetrators/renters but property owners as well.

The council is not there simply to react to large volumes of emotional emails. It is there to carefully weigh and determine the facts, possible courses of action, and then consider the impact of those actions on the entire community. We need more facts before we can do that. Until we can measure the problem we can’t provide an effective solution to it. It may take a year to gather the needed information but whatever solution we arrive at will be a responsible, well thought out one rather than an emotional one. I hope Minnetrista residents will support finding the best solution rather than a quick one.

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