SARATOGA SPRINGS — People who operate short-term rentals in Saratoga Springs could soon be facing a registration fee and new standards if the City Council approves legislation to regulate the business.
On Feb. 20, the City Council will hold a public hearing on the legislation, which would require people running short-term rentals to register their property with the city for $1,000 for two years.
Under the permitting process, short-term rental owners would need to provide various information to the city, including who owns the property, proof of ownership, proof of $1 million in insurance and a fire inspection report, which would be required annually.
There will be a fee for the fire inspections.
Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran said he brought forth the legislation after conversations with community members, studying other municipalities laws and reading into some court cases.
“I did some studying of court cases because Airbnbs’ operating model is if you put up regulations they sue you, so I anticipate we’ll get sued at some level,” he said.
There is currently a law at the state level being worked on to regulate short-term rentals, as well.
Regulating short-term rentals has been a long-discussed issue in the city. Right now, Moran said there are anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 short-term rental properties in the city.
Moran said only owner-occupied short-term rentals will be allowed to register the first time around. An owner-occupied short-term rental is one in which the owner lives in one of their short-term rentals as a primary residence for at least 185 days a year, according to the legislation.
Some residents have expressed concerns over companies where the owner lives in another state buying homes in the area and using them as short-term rentals and there not being anyone available when there are issues with the rental.
Moran said it is unclear how many of the short-term rentals are owned by companies, whose owners live outside the state.
Under the law, people would be able to file complaints with the Code Enforcement Office. Anyone who violates the law would receive conditions on their permits, warning, suspension or revocation of their permit.
Those who don’t register, but continue their short-term rental, would be fined $1,000 for their first violation, $2,000 for the second violation in five years and $3,000 for the third violation in five years.
“Each week’s continued violation constitutes a separate additional Violation,” the law states.
Following approval, the law would be implemented July 1, with a 60-day period for people to get registered.
“What that says to anybody in this market right now [is] ‘Don’t worry about the rentals you already lined up for the Belmont, you’re going to be able to do those and don’t worry about track season, you’re still going to be able to do that,'” Moran said.
By September, people will need to be in compliance with the law.
“My mindset is driven by two things: the men and women in our public safety department and putting them in a position where they don’t get harmed, and protecting our neighborhoods while also respecting our long legacy as a host community,” Moran said.
Adam McNeill, who owns three short-term rentals, said he’s all for making sure short-term rentals are safe.
“I have always been a supporter of regulation that provides a balance between the safety and support of our community, as well as the balance to these business owners,” he said.
However, he did raise concerns about the information presented by Moran at community forums, particularly information characterizing the short-term rental landscape in the city and the registration fee.
“A thousand dollars every two years is absolutely punitive to these owners and I have yet had an opportunity to see a justification of that expense,” he said.
Moran said the $1,000 registration fee was based on the average night rental rate of $581.
Airbnb also said it welcomed “reasonable rules.”
“Local residents rely on home sharing to supplement their income and to welcome guests whose spending supports local businesses,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We welcome the opportunity to work with the City of Saratoga Springs on reasonable rules that bolster the local tourism economy, provide certainty and clarity for Hosts, promote responsible hosting and address community concerns.”
Saratoga Arms Hotel owner Amy Smith said the legislation is a good thing.
“I think when homeowners are in the hotel business, guest safety and community safety is paramount just as if you were to have a traditional hotel,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing that the city is starting to put some regulations around short-term rentals here in this area.”
Moran said this is the first pass at regulating short-term rental, noting it will likely be updated.
“I anticipate we’re going to make changes,” he said. “You’re never going to get it right the first time 100% across the board.”