Lewes is about to regulate short-term rentals. Here’s what that means

A couple from Lewes said they have lived in the quaint, historic seaside town for more than three decades, but only more recently have started to see their neighborhood change.

As more landlords on their street began to offer short-term rentals through sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, they noticed their quiet community would drastically change from a nearby “ghost town” to a “bustling beach town.” ” in a weekend. .

Knowing that Lewes generally has more year-round residents than most of its neighboring resorts, another resident who commented at a town meeting last year said he feared the sense of community in Lewes would only begin to crumble if short-term rentals were to dominate soon. .

These residents all worried about how these rentals would affect their quality of life — from parking pressures to litter or noise issues — if the City of Lewes didn’t specifically regulate short-term rentals. And they weren’t alone.

For at least the last year, Lewes City Council, the City Manager and an appointed Short Term Rentals Committee have been discussing how to manage these rentals and ensure they do not add cost to the city, in particular for the collection of garbage and recycling, the maintenance of beaches or the police service.

“We welcome visitors. There are no plans to say we don’t welcome visitors,’ said City Manager Ann Marie Townshend, who presented at a meeting last September when the short-term rental discussion began.

“It’s just that there are costs to the community, both personal expenses and quality of life elements, that we need to look at how we can manage in order to protect quality of life and also protect the community. taxpayers’ money,” she said. at this previous meeting.

Now the city is ready to consider a new ordinance. On Monday, Lewes City Council held a public hearing on October 3 to discuss the new ordinance which distinguishes between short-term and long-term rentals and sets out certain rules for each.

Here are five things to know about this new prescription.

How does Lewes define a short-term rental?

If someone rents out their home or part of their home for 30 consecutive days or less, then the residence is considered a short-term rental under the amended code.

A home that someone is renting for more than 30 consecutive days — and which is not regulated as a hotel, motel, or other facility already identified elsewhere in city code — would then be considered a long-term rental. .

People enjoy Lewes Canalfront Park.  Sunny weather brought crowds to Delaware beaches, Saturday, August 21, 2022.

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Under the proposed fee schedule, short-term and long-term rentals would pay the same $200 annual fee for rental licenses.

Both types of rentals would also be subject to the same fines for violating their license requirements: a written warning for the first violation, a $250 fine for the second violation, and a $500 fine and revocation of their license for the third offence.

What separate rules would apply to short-term rentals?

While some of the same regulations would apply to both short and long term rentals – such as requiring smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, prohibiting landlords from operating any type of business in these rentals or use of a rental recreational vehicle – Lewes has identified some specific rules for short-term rentals.

For example, the city has proposed a maximum occupancy of two people per room plus two additional people for short-term rentals. Children under six are not counted.

A designated local contact person will need to be available 24 hours a day to accept telephone calls when the short term rental is occupied. This contact person must be able to physically respond to the rental within a “reasonable time” which does not exceed two hours, according to the new order.

To ensure that all of this information is visible, each short-term rental should post a document inside the residence that includes the property’s rental identification number, maximum occupancy, location of the off-street parking, contact details of owner or local representative. , emergency numbers and waste and recycling collection schedule.

All rental licensees should keep records of rental activity, including rental income and taxes paid, for three years. This information must be provided to the city upon request.

Traffic lines Savannah Road in Lewes as sunny weather draws crowds to Delaware beaches, Saturday, August 21, 2022.

However, short-term rental license holders should also track the number of guests and booking dates.

The short and long term rental regulations require that the landlords or “authorized agent”[s]to ensure guests or tenants follow city code requirements for noise, litter, and sidewalk and property maintenance.

What is the Good Neighbor Brochure?

Anyone operating a rental in Lewes should provide each of their tenants with a good neighbor brochure and post it inside the residence.

This is a two-page pamphlet that reminds tenants and residents of the general rules and common courtesies in the town, as well as useful information about parking, escape routes, the Lewes Line bus service and tips for biking in Lewes.

One of the first notes in the pamphlet reminds tenants of the city’s noise ordinance and warns that a call from neighbors could bring the police to their door and a possible citation.

“Lewes is a city of busy days and quiet nights!” reads the pamphlet.

The brochure also reminds renters to avoid putting their recyclables in plastic bags, as contamination from recycling has often come up as a concern during short-term rental discussions.

How soon would this come into effect?

A pontoon boat navigates the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal in Lewes as sunny weather brought crowds to Delaware beaches, Saturday, August 21, 2022.

This order would impact all short and long term rentals next year.

Pending approval, it is effective for the license year beginning January 1, 2023.

Do other beach towns distinguish short-term rentals?

Lewes would be one of the first beach municipalities in Delaware to establish an ordinance distinguishing regulations for short-term and long-term regulations.

Other nearby communities like Rehoboth and Dewey Beach require rental licenses and set regulations for all rentals, but officials from both cities confirmed there was no distinction between short and long term.

The only difference between short-term and long-term rentals in Dewey, according to administrative supervisor Kate Banaszak, is that year-round tenants don’t have to pay lodging taxes.

In Rehoboth Beach, some of the rental regulations share similarities with the short-term rental rules offered by Lewes, such as the requirement to provide the city with a local contact who can be reached 24/7.

Even though other cities in the state have implemented short-term rental regulations in the past and other beach towns have implemented their own policies, this distinction is fairly new to beaches and may point to the growing number of short-term rentals — especially on third-party sites like Airbnb and Vrbo — in coastal Delaware communities.

Several rental and real estate agents, as well as members of the community, explained how the increase in short-term rentals has played a role – among other factors – in limiting the availability of rentals and homes for the workforce. working in southern Delaware, especially during the pandemic.

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Emily Lytle covers Sussex County, from inland towns to beaches, with a focus on health issues. Got a story she should tell? Contact her at [email protected] or 302-332-0370. Follow her on Twitter at @emily3lytle.

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