WHITEFISH - The Whitefish City Council will vote on a new set of regulations for short-term rentals in the city, which were passed by the City Planning Board late last month.
Whitefish has 50 registered short-term rental properties that are leased to people for 30 days or less, but city officials believe the actual number is closer to 300.
City council member Richard Hildener says all these unregistered properties are illegally run and he hopes that new regulations will create a more fair and balanced market for everyone in the short-term rental business.
“Number one, they’re in the proper location and two that they are paying their taxes and are licensed, so that it’s a level playing field with the other commercial businesses in town that rent rooms such as hotels, motels," Hildener said.
The city is taking a two-step approach to the short-term rentals.
The first approach would be simple changes to the zoning code regarding the rentals. Hildener says the current zoning where rentals are allowed wouldn’t change, but the definition of what a short-term rental is would see a change in the language.
“We changed the definition just slightly, so it includes even a single room in a house. And this is to cover those who would do couch surfing as an option and charge for that service," Hildener said.
With the addition of the new rule, every individual unit would require a short-term rental permit, even under the same roof or owner.
The second would be contracting a short-term rental compliance company that would track the rentals and make sure they are complicit with all of the new rules and regulations.
The company would notify the city whenever a new short-term property became available and then the city would follow up with the renter of the home or room to register them as a legal short-term rental.
Hildener says this not only ensures they are in the legal zone, but makes the rental safer as they will go through inspection from the fire marshal and health department.
Hildener also says tightening the regulations would eliminate illegal short-term rentals in residential areas that could otherwise be used as long-term affordable housing.
“Those looking for affordable housing often times can use mother-in law apartments in residential districts. And that helps with that issue," Hildener said.