The Building Department currently interprets the definition of "Lodger" under the Zoning By-Law to mean a lodger for 30 days or more. This warrant article makes explicit the interpretation that the Town has been using for the proposition that short term lodging, such as those offered by AirBnB and similar services, are not a permitted use in Brookline. As a consequence, based on complaints, the Building Department has been shutting down advertised Air B and B's and similar short term rentals.
This warrant article also adds a new definition for "short term lodgers" and adds a new use that explicitly permits short term lodging under conditions similar to those already allowed for lodgers for 30 says or more, which is permitted under the existing Use 51. The proposed new Use 51C, includes the same restrictions as the existing Use 51: renting of not more than two rooms, which rooms cannot have separate cooking facilities, to not more than two short term lodgers and in no event can all more than 4 of unrelated persons dwell at one time in a dwelling unit.
The proposed new use would have the following additional requirements:
1. The owner would need to be registered under the Commonwealth's short term rental registration system created by G.L. c. 62C, Section 7;
2. The owner would need to comply with any additional registration or regulatory requirements the Town may choose to impose through amendments to the Town By-Law;
3. The owner of the dwelling unit, or a Lodger (long term) living in the dwelling unit, must sleep in the dwelling unit being rented to a short term lodger for each night of such short term lodger's rental in order to avoid a scenario wherein (i) an owner-occupier vacates the unit in order to facilitate the short-term lodger or (ii) the owner occupier of a two, three or multi-family building rents the units in which the owner does not live to short term lodgers.
Town Meeting previously accepted the terms of G.L. c. 64G, Section 3A in order to be able to facilitate a local use tax on hotels. By operation of G.L. c. 62C, Section 7, such taxes are now automatically applicable to short term rentals. That being the case, every Air B&B renter, who has not been shut down by the Town, will in theory be paying the local tax into the Commonwealth and the Town will then start collecting that tax payment as of July 1, 2019. This warrant article will legalize at least some of the uses for which the Town will be collecting that tax.
The primary motivation for starting with the proposed new Use 51A is to permit low and fixed income people to be able to take advantage of short term rentals in order to supplement their income and facilitate their staying in their homes. Such owners may prefer to supplement their income in this fashion, as opposed to taking on long term lodgers as roommates, in order to maintain their autonomy and privacy when the spare bedroom(s) are not rented. Also, long term lodgers may be more difficult to evict if they become a problem for the owner, which is less of a concern when it comes to short term renters. Thus, this proposal has a strong economic justice component.