Geneva discusses short-term house-rental use

Updated 8/29/2017 5:03 PM

Geneva aldermen think the city should keep a registry of homes that are being used for short-term rentals by clients of Airbnb and other companies.

But they don't think much more staff time should be spent, at least now, on studying whether the city could impose more regulations, such as where they are allowed.

Because it does not have home-rule powers, Geneva is not allowed to license rental properties, or regulate them much, according to City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins. That means it can't mandate inspections of the interiors for safety, for example.

And if some state legislators have their way, most Illinois municipalities could be prohibited from adopting laws that aim to prohibit or discourage short-term rentals. Senate Bill 1735, introduced in May, would create the Short-Term Rental Act, defining what a short-term rental is and encouraging their presence.

It would allow towns to require short-term rentals to register their properties, and the towns could charge a registration fee. The towns could adopt rules for health and safety.

The city has identified nine properties that are advertising rooms or whole houses for rent on Airbnb. Police have not received any complaints from neighbors, Dawkins said.

The topic came up when the city was studying how to handle requests to open bed-and-breakfast inns.

Alderman Mike Bruno wants to know if the city could limit the number of short-term rentals. Alderman Jeanne McGowan noted the fire department offers free home inspections, and suggested offering an incentive for owners to undergo such inspections.

Alderman Dean Kilburg is concerned about safety and parking. A registry would at least let fire and police officials know the property is being used by people unfamiliar with it, he said.

He and fellow 3rd Ward Alderman Becky Hruby said people have complained to them about the number of people staying in a short-term rental in their ward, and about clients parking on the street. People don't feel safe near the house, Hruby said, and a reportedly $30-a-night room price has her worried about the type of clientele.

Alderman Donald Cummings, however, defended users, saying he has done Airbnb several times.

"So when people are wondering what type of person uses it, don't automatically assume it is one type of person or another," Cummings said. A friend of his is renting out rooms to several engineers.

The aldermen also heard from a couple who offer their Oakwood Drive home on Airbnb.

"It's been nothing but a great, positive experience," Selena Nichols said. She provides renters with emergency information, plus materials about local businesses and attractions.

"It's a movement, it's a new way," she said.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.