Since August, business license applications for Airbnb and other short-term rentals in Independence had been on hold as city staff and officials worked on possible changes to city codes.
The City Council last week approved those changes, including limits on ownership and frequency in the city and a requirement to get a Rental Ready inspection prior to a business license renewal.
No single owner can operate more than five short-term rentals in the city, and a city block can have no more than one short-term rental per eight structures in a residential district.
Before, short-term rental properties only needed the business inspection conducted by the fire department. The city only permits them as single-family and duplex structures.
Airbnb and other short-term rental companies allow travelers to find a furnished house to rent for short vacation stays. Unlike a bed and breakfast, the property owner does not live at the house. By the city's definition, a short-term rental has no more than four guest rooms to occupy no more than 10 guests.
Rental Ready inspections, which the city started in 2017, are done by third-party contractors and check for basic health and safety issues such as exposed electrical wires, debris around a water heater or furnace, properly working outlets/switch covers and sanitary drainage system, rodent or insect infestation, and animal or human waste. Property owners pay the inspection costs.
The Planning Commission unanimously approved the additional regulations in November.
Marge Padgitt, who with her husband owns several rental properties around the city, told the commission she understood the need for such regulations and these are fair.
“I don't believe people in this business could be slumlords, because we have to go through Airbnb and we have to be vetted,” Padgitt said, adding that good customer reviews are crucial to staying in business.
Padgitt said that anymore, business travelers anticipate being able to find a viable short-term rental option in most cities.
“These should be the best of the best; short-term rentals are in every city,” she said. “We expect that when we go to other cities.”
Development Manager Jordan Ellena told the Planning Commission in November the city had no pending permits that would reach the per-owner limit of five.
Short-term rental landlords are not required to live in Independence, but they must have contact information for a local owner or property management company for emergency purposes.
Right now, the city requires one onsite parking space but could address parking further if it's a potential issue in a particular case.
Short-term rentals have operated in the city for years, and in 2018 the council passed an ordinance that simply required such property owners to apply to the city and go through the regular public hearing process for a business license.
Last August, with five public hearings on the agenda for short-term rentals and suddenly faced with a barrage of questions about such rentals, the Planning Commission voted to table applications until the city came back with recommended revisions.
Prior to that hold, the city's community development department said, Independence had approved three business licenses for short-term rentals and has nine more in the process.
Citizens had expressed concerns about potentially saturating a historic district with a revolving door of people, parking on the street, the possibility of noisy parties from renters and not enough inspection.
Ellena said with the additional regulations the city aimed to strike a balance between some concerns and the idea that existing regulations sufficed.