Queensbury imposes a 5-day minimum on Airbnb rentals

QUEENSBURY, NY (NEWS10) – In June, the City of Queensbury adjusted the rules governing landlords who want to rent their homes short-term. If you own a property in Queensbury and want to put it on a service like Airbnb or Vrbo this summer, you’ll need to do so for at least five days at a time.

The city unanimously passed a resolution in late June requiring short-term rentals to last at least five days at a time, barring summer renters from taking the property for just one night or a weekend. The limit is in place from May 15 to September 15, to combat the summer “weekend warrior” phenomenon.

“The idea was to discourage weekend party houses that keep turning into multi-party houses and to reduce the turbulence associated with rentals of a few days with people having to clean up after them,” the ward councilor explained. 2 from Queensbury Harrison Freer, a driving force behind The Resolution. “We had several properties that were way too much in this mode.”

The phenomenon that sees rental properties become noisy, messy or downright dangerous to the surrounding community has popped up in a few places this summer. They can include bachelor and bachelorette parties, graduation celebrations, and anything that might get rowdy when locals don’t feel responsible for where the celebration takes place.

One might hear the news and immediately assume that properties adjacent to Queensbury’s Lake George, located in the city’s first ward, would be the main culprit for the disruptive parties. In reality, the city knows of only one incident in the two miles of Lake George it encounters where a rental property had disruptive activity that warranted a complaint. In this case, the complaint was resolved by the owner and never went to town.

The most prominent complaints heard by the city involved parties at two other locations: one at Sunnyside Lake and two others at West Mountain, west of Glens Falls. In many cases, small problems in properties are brought to the attention of owners by neighbours, previously registered as points of contact. These issues never come to the attention of the city.

Freer says the decision was not met with much reluctance. In the summer, the majority of visiting families and groups come anyway for a week or more. The cut in September will come just in time, as visitor schedules also change.

“Off season, it’s more weekends. Balloon Fest, Ice Castles and other events. People don’t come for a whole week,” Freer said.

There is one point on which the city has heard disagreements. As well as the five-day rule, Queensbury has also imposed a 120-day limit on how often landlords can rent out a property in any given year. According to Freer, this move was made to prevent non-community limited liability companies from buying and renting properties at the expense of local neighbors; a course of action that resulted in legal battles in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid and North Elba.

A legal action

Queensbury may be safe from legal action involving businesses that could capitalize on the rental market, but some are questioning the action of landlords who may not be happy with the change. Lawyers for Tully Rinckey, PLLC in Albany are watching the aftermath closely, especially for locals who have invested in a second home in hopes of renting it out.

“I think there are a lot of people who have decided to invest in the town of Queensbury,” said Tully Rinckey’s solicitor Ryan McCall, who specializes in landlord and tenant litigation. “Maybe they’ve decided to buy an Airbnb and live just outside of town. All of a sudden you really start to see their ability to rent that property to be restricted, as well as their ability to make money on it – the reason many of them did it to begin with.

McCall says that to his knowledge, Queensbury is entering relatively new territory. It’s not often that a city steps in and imposes direct limits on how Airbnb or Vrbo rentals are allowed to operate, whether on the 5-day minimum side or the 120-day side. It means a lot of the questions around the Queensbury decision need to be dealt with with a ‘wait and see’ for now.

The law is still being finalized. Once it’s set in stone, anyone who strongly opposes it will have the ability to sue the city – and McCall expects that to happen.

“I would find it hard to think that there wouldn’t be (legal proceedings),” he said. “I think the town of Queensbury, due to its proximity to Lake George and The Great Escape and other attractions, makes it a hot spot for Airbnb owners, so I guess they might even decide to regroup.”

The limitations of the Queensbury solution do not mean that alternatives abound. McCall suggested the city could instead make rental property owners more responsible for checking who is renting properties.

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