Airbnb licensing to pick up speed in GR, city manager promises enforcement

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's been just under a month since the city of Grand Rapids began quietly issuing licenses for single room rentals for people using 'home sharing' websites like Airbnb.com.

City commissioners approved regulations this summer allowing one-room rentals in the city through sites like Airbnb, but also included several restrictions.

But with about approximately 70 listings for available rentals currently posted on the Grand Rapids Airbnb site, the city says just 4 addresses have actually applied and received the proper $287 Class-B rental license to legally operate.

Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom is promising enforcement.

“The purpose of this is to protect people, that’s what it’s all about, that’s the role of government and we are going to do it in the friendliest, most courteous way we can, but I’ve been charged to ensure people are compliant and we will," Sundstrom said.

The city's one-room rental ordinance includes the following restrictions:

  • It must be an owner occupied residence
  • Only one room can be rented at a time
  • No more than two adults (children allowed)
  • Limited to 200 annual permits costing $287 each for short term room rental
  • Neighbors must be notified each time

“If we find people are in violation of the law they have two choices, either to cease their operation or seek a license for a full bed and breakfast and they can operate more than one room," Sundstrom said.

FOX 17 counted 23 listings in Grand Rapids advertising more than one room for rent. In some cases, the entire home was listed.

Sundstrom insists the new license fee will not simply be a tax without oversight, adding the city will be actively pursuing people who are not in compliance.

“We will start with the websites and probably mailing these property owners letters, saying 'we understand you’re doing this, let's make sure you come into compliance with the law' and if we have issues we’ll take whatever legal means we have to," he said.

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