Michigan Zoning of Short-Term Rentals

Whether deserved or not, many believe that the negative aspects of short-term rentals such as Airbnb, VRBO and Booking.com outweigh their benefits. They get blamed for a variety of problems including increased noise, litter, traffic and parking, to name a few. Some municipalities have taken steps to regulate short-term rentals by using  their zoning ordinances. Michigan courts have generally treated these attempts favorably. See Concerned Property Owners of Garfield Township, Inc. v Charter Township of Garfield, 2018 WL 5305235.

Michigan House Bill 4046 seeks to amend the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to prohibit a local zoning ordinance from being used to regulate vacation and short-term rentals. The proposed amendment defines short term rental to mean the rental of a single-family residence, a family house or dwelling up to four units, or any unit or group of units in a condominium, for less than 28 days at a time. An identical bill to HB 4046 was introduced in 2017 but did not make it out of committee.

HB 4046 attempts to place short-term rentals on equal footing with traditional single family owner occupied dwellings by providing that a short term rental: 1) constitutes a residential use of the property and is a permitted use in all residential zones, 2) is not subject to a special use or conditional use permit or procedure different from those required for other dwellings in the same zone, and 3) is not a commercial use of property.

HB 4046 explicitly states that it does not prohibit regulation of short-term rentals for such things as noise, advertising, traffic or other conditions if the regulation is applied on a consistent basis to both rental and owner-occupied properties. While the prospects for HB 4046 to become law may not be favorable based on past history, the increase in popularity of short-term rentals ensures that this battle is far from over.