By Jennifer Sierra
Airbnb is an online service where people can put their homes up for rent to travelers for less than a traditional Bed and Breakfast or hotel because they don’t have to pay the same fees hotels do to stay in business. They also don’t have to comply with the same standards and inspections that states and local governments apply to hotels. Many compare Airbnb to Uber but it is different in the aspect it is more of a community where renters and hosts rate each other. A renter or host can get a bad review and it will compromise your reputation within the community. If you get a bad review as a renter, you are less likely to have hosts rent to you and vice versa. Hosts may rent out their whole house, a room or just a couch to sleep on. There are high end properties available and very low end accommodations. A person can search by location and budget.
At a Board of Adjustments meeting, the city of Bellevue, Kentucky decided to shut down operations of Airbnb businesses in their city after citizens complained. For a while, there had been several Airbnb rentals operating within the city of Bellevue without occupational licenses. Once the neighbors complained about noise from parties and different people coming and going from the various properties, the property owners were asked to get an occupational license to operate within the city. A few of the Airbnb rentals decided to close immediately but 2 were hopeful they could continue to conduct business so they tried to apply for an occupational license and went before the Board of Adjustments for approval.
Scott Ens, Bellevue’s Zoning Administrator, said there were 2 options of classification that they could be placed in, short-term rental or Bed and Breakfast. In Bellevue, a short-term rental is determined as a home occupation so it isn’t the same as a rental. Short-term rentals need to be owner occupied and no one can cook on the premises but the home owner. The Airbnb operators, Jessica Kirkpatrick of 114 Geiger Avenue and Natalie Gregory of 117 Taylor Avenue, both real estate agents, had been renting out their property on the Airbnb web site for short-term rental. Unfortunately, the ladies were turned down for an occupational license to operate because they technically could not be placed in either category.
Jessica states she had a 5-star rating on the site and had been doing 1 to 5 rentals a month with 4 to 6 people in the property at once. She also said it was her primary residence. One of her neighbors stood up to state why they didn’t like the operations next to them saying, “I like to know my neighbors.” There had been complaints of renters having parties with 40 or more guests at once. Some neighbors were concerned with the operation decreasing their home’s value.
The Bed and Breakfast businesses in Bellevue also were not happy with Airbnb operators in their town. Leanne Saylor of The Weller Haus Bed and Breakfast in Bellevue said, “Are they subjected to the same rules and regulations that we are? Is there a person on the property? Are they paying taxes and having to get an occupational license? We have to pay 11% in taxes. Are they doing the same? We have restrictions on the amount of time a person can stay at our location. There are people that travel and stay at places for longer than 14 days, which is our time limit. We want to know if the Airbnb’s have to have the same time restriction on guests. We have lost customers coming into town for the movie business, long term-business travelers, and parents and family coming into town for Children’s hospital. We would like to be able to service those long-term visiting guests but are prohibited from doing so. Our understanding of it is that they don’t have the same requirement.” According to Saylor, in the state of Kentucky, an innkeeper or property owner has to be on the property. In Bellevue, the owner has to live on the property to operate a Bed and Breakfast.
The Airbnb hosts currently leave a set of keys for the renters and sometimes never even meet of see the customers they are renting to. Both Airbnb operators, Jessica Kirkpatrick and Natalie Gregory said they live on the premises and that the homes were their primary residences. They only left their homes when renters came to stay.