New Law Would Close Door On Airbnb

By Jano Tantongco
jtantongco@longislandergroup.com 

Pictured above is a home listed for rent through short-term lodging service Airbnb. The Huntington Town Board recently proposed a pair of laws that would prevent homes to be rented for less than 30 days at a time through the service.

Pictured above is a home listed for rent through short-term lodging service Airbnb. The Huntington Town Board recently proposed a pair of laws that would prevent homes to be rented for less than 30 days at a time through the service.

For Shawn Welnak, short-term lodging service Airbnb allows him to not only earn extra cash, but also meet travelers from around the world.

The professor of philosophy at Long Island University Post rents a two-bedroom cottage in Huntington. He lives in one of those rooms, and rents the other out to Airbnb guests. He’s been using the service for about a year and said he’s made in that time period around $9,000 to supplement his income.

“You should be able to do what you want with your home,” Welnak said. “It’s so expensive to live here. Airbnb has made it possible for someone to live without a permanent roommate in a little bit of a nicer place than they might be able to afford.”

But Welnak, and others across the Town of Huntington who properties through Airbnb and services like it, may soon be barred from using them in town.

The Huntington Town Board at its Dec. 7 meeting proposed two laws that would effectively close the door on the services. The first would prevent accessory apartments from being used as “transient” rental properties, which is a term that would be created by the law and is defined as residential properties rented for a period of less than 30 days. The second resolution would prohibit town-issued rental permits from being issued to owners of transient rental properties.

The proposal would not affect hotels, motels and “bed and breakfast establishments,” according to town officials.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, who is co-sponsoring both resolutions with Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, said the initiatives are designed to protect quality of life.

“We’ve gotten some complaints about it,” Cuthbertson said on Monday. “They’re essentially turning… their home akin to a hotel or a B&B use.”

Cuthbertson added that there doesn’t seem to be any other solution, but that the town board is in contact with Airbnb regarding potential alternatives.

Welnak said he has received complaints from his neighbors about parking issues, but he asks his guests to park in the driveway to avoid taking up the street parking.

Welnak also rents a property in New Orleans with his fiancée, Kelly. There, he said, the city has opted to regulate the service by mandating rented properties remain occupied by the owner.

New Orleans also mandates Airbnb hosts must operate with a rental permit and that the company must share host data with the city, including names and addresses, according to a recent article published in The New York Times.

Josh Meltzer, head of New York Public Policy for Airbnb, stated in an email on Wednesday that the service not only assists residents in earning extra money, “but also contributes to spending at small businesses in our communities.”

Meltzer continued, “We hope Huntington follows the lead of municipalities around the state that have crafted clear, simple, enforceable rules that promote public safety and responsible home sharing.”

Public hearings on the Huntington Town Board’s proposals have been set for Jan. 10, 7 p.m., at Huntington Town Hall.