ROCKLAND, Maine — Rockland’s short-term rentals, including Airbnbs and other units rented on a temporary basis, could be subject to inspections, but it could be months before the city council takes any regulatory action. A workshop is tentatively scheduled for April, where the public can weigh in before the council takes any regulatory action.
On Monday, city councilors heard recommendations from a task force that’s been reviewing the issue of short term-rentals there for more than a year. The most significant recommendation was for all short-term rentals to undergo safety inspections.
“Guest safety was one of the things that repeatedly came up when talking about these types of rentals,” said Callie Black, the task force’s chairman.
Rockland, like many coastal cities battling with affordability, has been looking at how short-term rentals impact the housing market in recent years. Over the past two years, the number of property owners renting units in Maine through Airbnb has doubled, with more than 12,000 Airbnb listings across the state, according to the company’s data. Last summer, Airbnb hosts in Maine made $55.7 million.
If a regulatory ordinance is proposed, it would have to go through a two-month passage process. A final vote wouldn’t be taken until at least June.
The city has been granting permits for both owner-occupied and nonowner-occupied short-term rentals since 2016. Short-term rentals are properties that are rented for less than 30 days. The task force brought up the idea of creating a minimum night stay, such as five nights.
There are 24 owner-occupied rental properties, in which the owner either rents out rooms or an apartment attached to their primary residence. The short-term rental task force suggested that these rentals be inspected by safety officials every two years.
In 2018, Rockland capped the number of nonowner-occupied rentals allowed in the city at 48. Nearly 75 percent of those rentals are owned by out-of-towners, according to the task force. An additional 23 people are on a waitlist to operate nonowner-occupied short-term rentals in Rockland.
The task force could not reach a consensus on whether or not the city should amend the number of nonowner-occupied short-term rentals, but suggested that if the council wants to raise the cap, it implement restrictions on how many could be located within one neighborhood to avoid density problems.