The vote this fall at Lynnfield’s town meeting was decisive: to ban short term rentals – like the kind you book through Airbnb - in neighborhoods zoned for single family homes.
“You have to have restrictions if you’re renting your place out,” said Lynnfield resident Fran Golden. “That’s it.”
Like many of her neighbors, Golden wants to keep things in Lynnfield the way they’ve always been: quiet. She lives just behind an expansive home where - last May - as he’d done many times before - the homeowner used an online portal to rent out his place for the weekend.
“You could hear the party and the noise and the screaming,” recalls Golden.
It went from raucous to tragic, when a party-goer was killed. It’s an extreme example of how short term rentals can disrupt a community and it galvanized Lynnfield to deal with the issue on a local level. There are no state laws regulating the booming short-term rental business, something State Representative Aaron Michlewitz is working to change:
“It’s trying to strike the right balance of a framework of regulations that is appropriate, that protects the neighborhoods,” explained Michelwitz.
Michlewitz lives in Boston’s North End, a neighborhood where Airbnb is so popular, he says some condos and apartment buildings feel like de-facto hotels.
“I’ve talked to people that have chased rolling suitcases down the hall and asked them where are you staying and who rented to you,” said Michlewitz. “How ‘d you get here? How’d you get in the front door? “
He’d like to make the short term rental business more transparent, so landlords and condo associations are aware when property is rented out. One idea: require hosts to register with their city or town.
As Beacon Hill sharpens its focus on home-sharing enterprises, Airbnb has launched an ad campaign on local TV. The company says it’s not against regulations or even paying the same kind of taxes as hotels.
“The issue is to make sure there’s a light regulatory touch for people who are doing this from time to time and are doing it out of their primary resident,” said Will Burn, a senior advisor at Airbnb. “The average host in Boston rents out their place around 40 days a year. If we create lots of hoops and hurdles for that kind of host they’re likely to say it’s just not worth it.”
State-wide regulations on home-sharing could also face pushback from local communities.
“I think this is really a very local matter,” said Tom Mullen, Lynnfield town counsel, “because what makes sense in Nantucket or Provincetown which are vacation communities doesn’t necessary make sense in Lynnfield, which is a kind of bedroom community.”