As the number of Airbnb’s and short-term rental housing in general continue to rise in Tompkins County, several municipalities are looking at potential regulations for this type of housing. The Town of Dryden is one of those municipalities, and in fact has already passed legislation that sets standards for short-term rentals in the town.
“There were a number of community members concerned about the growth of short-term rentals and their operation outside of any sort of regulatory structure,” Councilman Dan Lamb said.
“I started this process based on what I suspected was a growing issue. I advised my colleagues on the board and the planning board that we needed to get ahead of this issue instead of being caught in a reactive mode.”
The local law was passed in December 2020, amending the Dryden Zoning Law. The changes include a definition of a “short-term rental” – “rental of a residence or a portion of a residence to the same natural person or family for fewer than thirty (30) consecutive days.” The law also restricts the “rental of a residence or a portion of the residence, such as a secondary self-contained accessory apartment or a room contained in a residence,” to no more than 30 days total in a calendar year “where the owner is not present in the residence, provided that the owner of the residence or his/her agent is available locally in order to respond in a timely manner to complaints regarding the condition of the residence or the property at which the residence is located or regarding the conduct of occupants of the residence.”
Lamb said the 30-day maximum seemed to be the most appropriate range because any amount beyond that is “more of a venture where somebody buys real estate, buys a house, for the expressed purpose of perpetually renting it out on a short-term basis” in his eyes.
“We saw that as disruptive to the community,” he said. “A lot of property owners are wary of that sort of practice, and I think that had the potential to affect the quality of life in some of our neighborhoods.”
“If you have a house that has continually changing occupants on a short-term basis, you can just imagine that that’s not constructive to the quality of life in a neighborhood,” he said.
One reason for establishing the law was to legalize short-term renting so that the town does not have an unpermitted growing business model, Lamb said. Another reason was to prevent occupants from abusing their stay at a property in the town.
“What we don’t want is a weekend party house where somebody lists this on Craigslist; there are no rules against it, so they allow 25 people to rent the house for – a three-bedroom house – for a weekend,” Lamb said. “The people who bought the adjacent properties didn’t sign up for that when they bought their houses, and they shouldn’t be subjected to somebody who’s using a gap in our local law to make a buck.”
The law does not permit short-term rentals to be used by a total that “exceeds 2 adults per bedroom,” which would hopefully prevent such gatherings. It would also address potential shortages of water.
“Much of the town is not served by municipal water or sewer,” Lamb said. “The potential for certain houses in a neighborhood to have an excess of the number of renters on a given weekend could be dangerous to or harmful to local wells and aquifers. We have these neighborhoods that are developed with … direct relationship to the well service that’s available in the area. If you have a house that’s just loaded up with people far beyond what it’s built for, you could have the potential where a local well runs dry and other people in the neighborhood won’t get enough water. We have had reports of that specific problem in the town with regards to a short-term rental.”
Doing a basic search of Airbnb’s in Dryden, there are at least a dozen listings that offer either an “entire house” or “cottage” or “cabin” to rent. So far, the new law has received mixed responses from some Airbnb owners in the town. Anthony Condo, Jr. has been hosting an Airbnb in the town for a little over a year. He rents out an upstairs, second level suite that features two full bedrooms and a private bathroom. He said in the past he has had an individual rent out the space for a three-month period and another for four months (that person ended up not staying for the full four months.)
While he does not like having the town council tell him what he can and cannot do with his property, he does not see this law impacting him at all.
“It doesn’t apply much to us, to be honest with you, because there will almost never be a case where we’re not here because the area of our house that’s rented, that’s separated … from us in a sense,” Condo, Jr. said. “We wouldn’t be leaving for any length of time and have a tenant in our space without us being here. We just wouldn’t be comfortable with it.”
Arnaud Germain is another Dryden resident that has been hosting an Airbnb for a little more than a year. Germain rents out a small apartment that is attached to the house he lives in. Like Condo, Jr., Germain said the law should not impact him since he lives on-site. However, he does think having regulations of Airbnb’s in place is a good move by the town.
“I’m from France originally, and you see what’s happening in Paris, for example, in some neighborhoods where apartments are being bought just to go for Airbnb’s and end up having absolutely [no positive impact] because tourists don’t shop at small stores, like butcher shops and stuff like that,” Germain said. “So you end up … losing the small stores that are around. I don’t think we’re seeing that here in Dryden, but I do believe that Airbnb … deprives the rental market to the people who live here to rent the spaces, and rental prices go up and people can’t afford to live there.”
He said the law is better geared towards addressing that predicament than preventing large parties/gatherings from taking place since Airbnb released some policy in August 2020 that bans parties and events globally and sets the maximum number of tenants at a property at 16.