February 12, 2018

SoPo mayor fears Airbnb rental restrictions could lead to lawsuit

Photo / Airbnb
Photo / Airbnb
The Airbnb website lists this South Portland home with a headline "Large home close to everything!" and describes it "as ideal for providing an excellent accommodation for a family or groups that want to live in comfort for their stay in the Portland area. There are 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, and the home is outfitted with every convenience necessary." A January 2018 review stated the "house is spacious, clean, and easily accessible. The location has good parking, a grocery store nearby and it's just a quick Uber/Lyft ride to downtown. I would highly recommend it for large groups."
Courtesy / South Portland website
Linda Cohen is South Portland's mayor.

South Portland Mayor Linda Cohen expects the city to be sued if new restrictions on short-term housing rentals go through.

The Forecaster reported the City Council recently voted to ban non-owner-occupied rentals in all residential neighborhoods. Hosted stays in all areas of the city would still be possible, and non-homeowner-occupied rentals would be allowed only in commercial and mixed-use neighborhoods.

A deciding vote is slated for Feb. 20. If approved a second time, the ordinance will take effect June 1.

Cohen told the paper the city will likely be sued over the restrictions on popular vacation-rental services like Airbnb and VRBO, citing a page set up to raise funds for litigation.

"This egregious ordinance is scheduled to go into effect on 4/15/2018 with no public input beyond the limited city council meetings where councilors arrived at the table already pre-disposed to ban STRs in the city," the web-page stated. "Additionally, there are no provisions in the process to allow for honoring current reservations past 4/15/2018 and all violations will be subject to a $1000/ day fine. Please join our group as we raise funds to fight this battle in court. A core group of us have already contributed $5000 and have pledged to contribute to a second round of funding but we need to call on our fellow neighbors and short term rental owners in South Portland to join our cause."

Airbnb has urged users to lobby the city, the Forecaster reported.

Opponents of the restrictions argued the ability to rent their properties via online services is a vital piece of supplemental income. Supporters said the rentals have created neighborhoods without neighbors. Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny said that, as of last November, there were 282 short-term rentals listed in South Portland, with 75% of those for entire homes. Several residents have said the situation has made housing cost-prohibitive for some to settle in the city, with people paying $50,000 more in cash than the asking price of a property.

According to Money Magazine's latest national scorecard, South Portland is the best place to live in Maine, pairing strong economic and educational performance with affordability, convenience, safety and a pleasant way of life.

Read more

Airbnb listings surge in Maine, sparking push for stricter rules


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