GR cracking down on room renting

10:42 AM, Oct 23, 2013   |    comments
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  • Grand Rapids residents renting rooms on Airbnb
  • Shawn Avery Grand Rapids resident
  • Jane Lovett, owner of Peaches Bed and Breakfast
  • Karen Coy, Grand Rapids Resident

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- It's a way people in Grand Rapids try to earn some extra income: Renting out their rooms temporarily. But without the proper licensing, the practice is against the law.

Now city leaders want to make it easier to go after people who advertise their short-term beds, so a new ordinance is being proposed to be able to go after anyone who tries to market their room for rent.

The growing number of Grand Rapids residents renting out their rooms and beds in their homes is due in part to websites like, a site that makes it easy to post rooms for rent and find places to stay in cities across the world.

In Grand Rapids residents who rent their home for short-term stays need a business license and their home rezoned like a bed and breakfast.

To get your home rezoned and a business license is expensive. Karen Coy, a Grand Rapids resident who is trying to rally users of says, "They were telling us that unless we were going to get the special land use, a process that costs $1750 dollars and get a business license, we can no longer use Airbnb."

Karen wasn't the only person who was told to stop renting her room. Shawn Avery, a Grand Rapids homeowner received a letter, "It basically says someone complained about me renting out a room." So he changed his day-to-day room rental to a 30 day rental, which he says makes him a landlord and that means he does not need the business license.

"I don't understand why if I rent my room out for 29 days I need a business license, but if I rent it 30 than I don't," explains Avery.

Not everyone is sympathetic with the homeowners. Jane Lovett, owner of Peaches Bed and Breakfast in Grand Rapids, paid to get her home rezoned and pays for a business license. "You can do dentistry in your house without a license, but that doesn't make it legal and it doesn't make it safe," explains Lovett. "If you want to play, just play by the same rules as everyone else."

Karen Coy says she would like to follow regulation, but the current rules don't fit her room renting. She is not a hotel and she is not a bed and breakfast. "We are just asking for something that is appropriate for the room sharing community," explains Lovett. "So we are asking for regulation that addresses the concerns for safety for guests, parking issues, and impact on the neighbors."

The city is setting a hearing for the matter on November 12 to discuss the future for Airbnb users, but as of now, you cannot rent your room for one night in Grand Rapids without a license.

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