Detroit says it will not enforce its controversial new Airbnb rules


  • Photo via Airbnb

The city of Detroit says it will not enforce new rules that make it illegal for Airbnb hosts to rent rooms in single- and multi-family homes.

We broke the news yesterday that changes to the city's zoning ordinance that went into effect on Feb. 6 prohibit Airbnb hosts from renting out single rooms. Other outlets incorrectly reported that the city totally banned Airbnb in R1 and R2 zones, which make up most of the city. The rules actually only prohibit room rentals, which would impact about half of Detroit's 430 Airbnb units.

Regardless, David Bell, the city's director of the Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department, sent out a statement this morning that says that the rules weren't meant to prohibit overnight guests. The city law department is reviewing the ordinance, and will not be ticketing Airbnb hosts in the meantime. He also claims cease and desist letters that Airbnb operators recently received stemmed from the previous ordinance.

Detroit homeowners have been able to rent out a room in their homes for more than 100 years and we don't believe the new ordinance was intended to take away that right. The ordinance as written appears to ban all homeowners from having even their own friends and relatives stay at their homes if that friend or relative is paying them rent. The public was never told that was intended. I have asked the law department to review this question and give BSEED guidance.

Media reports that enforcement efforts have begun under this ordinance are false. Over the last two years there have been a few enforcement actions that have involved Airbnb properties, but those tickets have arisen from other complaints or violations related to those properties.

Until the law department review is complete, BSEED will not be ticketing homeowners for renting out rooms in their own residence, whether through Airbnb or otherwise. BSEED and the administration will be working with City Council to resolve these issues.

City planner Jamie Murphy told us yesterday that the ordinance was only put in place to provide a new enforcement tool while a broader ordinance addressing Airbnb units is being developed.

The rule changes caught many city officials by surprise as it was developed by the city's planning commission staff, then approved by council in November as part of a 200-page update to the city's zoning code. The update was meant to be only a housekeeping matter that cleaned up language, city planning officials told Metro Times.

Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit says the company is pleased to learn the news.

"We applaud the city for doing the right thing and protecting everyday people who are sharing their homes to pay the bills," he says. "Airbnb has partnered with hundreds of cities to develop commonsense home sharing regulations, and we look forward to collaborating with Detroit leaders moving forward."

Read yesterday's story here.

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