Renting a home on Long Island for a few days this summer vacation season is not as easy as it used to be, thanks to municipalities increasingly cracking down on short-term rentals.
From western Nassau County to the East End, many towns and villages have passed rules tightening regulations on homeowners who rent residences to transients. The new rules are in response to the rise in online rental markets such as Airbnb and Vacation Rentals By Owner. But one community is fighting back.
“Shelter Island residents have historically been welcoming of short-term visitors, and have a long history of engaging in short-term vacation rentals of their homes, with a typical duration of two to three days,” Julia Weisenberg says in a federal lawsuit she and other renters filed against the Town of Shelter Island, which passed a 14-night minimum rental law last summer. As the lead plaintiff in the case, who uses the rental money to pay her bills as well as care for her three children and her disabled husband, she claims the “law has caused, and will continue to cause, a substantial decrease in … income, which will have devastating effects on her and her family.”
The passage of local laws comes amid a wave of similar legislation in cities nationwide as the hotel industry has ramped up its Share Better campaign, pushing back against short term home rentals that compete with hotels and motels. The laws often ban advertising short-term rentals, require owners to register their rentals, and fine violators.
Opponents of the Shelter Island law insist that motivation for its passage is more insidious than protecting renters from getting hurt in old homes that aren’t up to code, as proponents say.
“The quality of people vacationing on the island is deteriorating,” Shelter Island officials said while debating passage of the law, according to court documents. “[Fourteen] days weeds out the unwanted…Airbnb will change the complexion of the island.”
Last month, New York City passed a law requiring Airbnb and other home-sharing companies to provide the names and addresses of its hosts so the city can crackdown on illegal rentals, such as those that violate a state law against renting apartments for less than 30 days. The law is expected to halve the $3 billion company’s listings in the city when it goes into effect in January.
“We have expressed willingness to work with lawmakers to safeguard the safety and privacy of these regular New Yorkers,” Airbnb said in a statement. “But until there is an honest attempt by lawmakers to delineate the tens of thousands of hosts who are responsibly sharing their space and the few bad actors who take advantage of the system, we remain committed to pushing back against any legislation that solely aims to frighten hardworking New Yorkers.”
On LI, the laws typically involve destination communities with beach homes that draw tourists to the region during summer. The Village of Ocean Beach on Fire Island has long had a rule barring rentals of less than a week, a rule aimed at inhibiting groups of young partiers from disrupting the resort community. But in 2016, the much quieter, more exclusive Village of Saltaire on FI also tightened its rental code in response to Airbnb.
Last fall, even the Village of New Hyde Park, a commuter community not exactly on the short list of must-visit places on LI, restricted rentals of less than 28 days. The Town of Hempstead had done the same months earlier.
Last month also saw the Village of Kensington ban renting homes for less than six months. Earlier this year, the Village of The Branch added restrictions on rentals of less than 30 days, prohibiting rentals of more than two bedrooms or parties after 10 p.m. in such rentals. And in 2015, the Town of East Hampton limited landlords to renting homes to 15 days at a time and only twice annually.
Renters and tourists will have to work all the harder to get past the virtual “no vacancy” sign in summers to come.