Northwood issues cease and desist order to Airbnb

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Northwood two weeks ago issued a cease and desist order to the owner of a house being used as an Airbnb, a service that lets property owners rent out their spaces to travelers looking for a place to stay.
        Neighbors in the Cedar Creek Woods subdivision off of St. Rte. 579 have been complaining about the noise coming from the house. One neighbor, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he regularly finds trash in his side yard near the Airbnb driveway.
        “I have to listen to parties carrying on just about every weekend, hear car doors slamming at all hours of the day and night, witness vulgar language in the evenings when we are trying to relax in our own backyard. The most recent guests brought three dogs with them. The dogs aggressively barked at our fence when they saw our dog, who we have trained not to bark.”
        He said he and his wife have tried “just about every avenue to get the Airbnb shut down.”
        “But it just continues. We started out by submitting complaints to Airbnb itself any time an issue occurred. This hasn’t yet yielded any result.”
        City Administrator Bob Anderson said he and City Law Director Brian Ballenger have discussed the matter.
        “We came up with a solution, which is to tell the owner to comply with our zoning ordinance. Stop using the property as a rental. The problem we have is you can have rentals – you can rent your property. Our zoning code says nothing about the duration in which you can rent it. But if we look at it as a motel or hotel, which is what we’re doing, that’s what we’re basing our cease and desist order on.”
        The owner of the property does not live on the premises, said Anderson, but just rents out the house.
        “From what I understand, it’s a nice house,” he added. “It has a few bedrooms, and a swimming pool. I think up to six people can stay there. It’s probably a very nice place. However, we don’t feel that type of a hotel/motel operation is appropriate in a residential neighborhood. You have to comply with our zoning codes.”
        When the owner didn’t comply with the cease and desist order, the city issued a certified order last week, he said.
        “They still haven’t responded. From what we understand, the house is rented out through September,” said Anderson.
        On Wednesday, the city sent a copy of the cease and desist order to Airbnb.
        “We feel it’s a civil thing. We can’t go and arrest someone. But we will cite them in mayor’s court if they don’t comply or reach some sort of agreement.”
        The Ohio Legislature is considering a proposed law that would not permit regulating Airbnb.
        Ohio House Bill 563 prohibits a county, township, or municipal corporation from adopting or enforcing any regulation or restriction that prohibits short-term rental properties or regulates the number, duration, or frequency of rental periods for short-term rental properties.
        Existing Ohio law does not provide for the regulation of short-term rental properties. The bill defines a short-term rental property to mean a house, apartment, condo, cooperative unit, cabin, cottage or bungalow, or one or more rooms offered to transients or travelers for a fee for a period of 30 days or less. “If it is passed, it would overrule us,” said Ballenger. “It states we cannot restrict that.”
        Harold Hamilton, who lives in the neighborhood and “sees the mess,” said the public should voice their opposition to the short-term rentals because they could one day end up living next door to one.
        Hamilton expressed concerns about the proposed bill.
        “The state should let the local communities address this. We should have the authority to deal with it, not the state,” he said.
        Meanwhile, the neighbors who wished to remain anonymous said he and his wife are seriously thinking of moving because the Airbnb is booked for the summer. 
        “It is making us rethink whether we want to continue living here – it is bad enough of an issue that we are considering selling our house and moving despite loving our home and neighborhood otherwise,” he said.         


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