Portland rules on short-term rentals to get hearing, City Council vote

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PORTLAND — Mayor Ethan Strimling would like to limit short-term rentals to one listing per person.

Councilor Jill Duson is reluctant to change any rules, because existing regulations have not been in effect for a year.

Somewhere in between is a package of proposed changes to short-term rental rules that will have a public hearing and council vote on Nov. 19 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

“I do support the committee amendment on work being brought forward. I don’t plan to bring forward any amendments at this point,” Strimling said earlier this month.

The package of amendments would change how short-term rental units on the mainland are counted against a cap of 300 in non-owner-occupied buildings, and would include short-term rental units in owner-occupied buildings the owner is not using as a primary residence.

That change would add as many as 172 units to the 164 already counted by the city, according to data from the city Permitting & Inspections Department. Twenty of those units were registered from Oct. 12-15, while councilors on the Housing Committee led by Duson discussed a potential moratorium on registrations.

The moratorium idea never advanced, but councilors could make the amendment on calculating units against the cap retroactive to Oct. 12, which Strimling favors. They could also move to increase the cap to include previously registered units that were not counted as non-owner occupied because they are in owner-occupied buildings.

As the committee deliberated a package of amendments in meetings over the last two months, Duson and Strimling also disagreed on the effects of short-term rentals on the long-term rental market.

As of Oct. 24, just before the committee forwarded the amendments to the full council, city Licensing & Registration Coordinator Jessica Hanscombe reported 645 applicants on the mainland and islands had registered 765 short-term rental units.

Of those, 120 were on the islands, which have not been subject to caps. Twenty-nine were rented by tenants, and the remaining 450 were mainland units.

“I just don’t think we are overrun; the data does not bear that out,” Duson said Oct. 24.

While current registrations may be exempt, the ordinance amendments call for limiting new registrations to one per applicant and would place caps on the number of short-term rentals allowed in a building based on the number of units it contains.

The city uses consultants Host Compliance to monitor the number of short-term rental units advertised on the internet and to ensure the ads display a city permit.

The amendments would also require owners to provide one form of identification showing a building is their primary residence, instead of signing an affidavit, as now required.

Councilors will also vote on changing the registration fee schedule to eliminate a flat $100 fee for single-family homes or owner- or tenant-occupied homes, while adding the term “tenant-occupied units” to the fee schedule governing owner-occupied units.

While counting units against the mainland cap may become retroactive to Oct. 12, councilors will also vote on extending the deadline for 2019 registrations from Jan. 1, 2019, to Feb. 1, 2019, because of the other ordinance amendments involved.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.