VENTNOR – The Board of Commissioners Thursday, April 24 approved a contract with an outside agency to assist with tracking short-term rentals in the city.
Host Compliance, LLC was awarded an $18,801 contract to monitor short-term rentals on internet-based platforms and inform the city whenever a rental agreement is made online.
“It’s something we desperately need,” Commissioner Lance Landgraf said.
Commissioner of Public Safety Tim Kriebel called it a “cutting edge” service that can help the city enforce its ordinance.
According to the Host Compliance website, “Vacation rental websites have turned vacation rentals into a booming underground economy at the expense of long-term tenants, neighborhood character and the quality of life of neighbors.”
In December 2018, the city adopted an ordinance requiring property owners to register for a mercantile license if they rent their properties for less than 30 days through online rental marketplaces, such as Airbnb, Evolve, HomeAway or VRBO.
On March 28, the city issued a temporary ban on all short-term rentals in accordance with Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order allowing municipalities to impose additional restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic that help “flatten the curve” of infections.
The ordinance states that no one can lease a property for less than 30 days without first obtaining a mercantile license. The fee is $100 per year and requires property owners to provide contact information where they can be reached in an emergency. The license also provides the Code Enforcement Officer with the ability to access the property to determine compliance. Violators may be subject to fines.
Landgraf said he found out about the tracking program during the NJ League of Municipalities conference last November.
“They find the locations, track them and inform us whenever a rental is made,” he said.
Landgraf said the city has issued about 200 short-term rental licenses since the ordinance was adopted, but the company’s preliminary review indicates there are more than 300 active listings on internet based rental platforms.
“This will help us track them better and get them licensed,” Landgraf said.
Host Compliance will regularly provide the city with information, so the Code Enforcement Department can conduct its investigation and notify property owners how to obtain a mercantile license, which requires the homeowner to provide information about where they can be reached in the event the city receives a complaint.
Most of the complaints registered by neighbors about short-term rental properties are for parking and noise, Landgraf said. Overcrowding is also an issue.
Landgraf said that last week, a resident called to complain that a neighboring property was being rented in violation of the temporary ban, and when the city conducted its investigation discovered the property was being leased at no cost to a nurse from Alabama who came north to work with coronavirus patients, Landgraf said.
“These people gave her their home for free while she is working as a nurse,” he said. “That’s perfectly legal. In fact, we encourage medical workers and first responders coming to our hospitals and nursing homes to help out during the pandemic.”
Landgraf said in “normal times,” the fee paid to Host Compliance would be recouped from the receipt of mercantile license fees, but during the shut-down there will be fewer rentals.
“What the company will do for us now is find the violators who can be fined,” Landgraf said.
“It’s like little brother watching big brother,” he quipped.
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