The Marlborough Town Board has been grappling with the definitions and the realities of what are short term home rentals vs. what are bed and breakfast places.
Supervisor Scott Corcoran said last year the town passed a short term rental law, “and there was a very brief definition of a bed and breakfast in there.”
Earlier this year Corcoran met with the Planning Board, their attorney and with engineer Pat Hines and discovered there really is no definition for a BNB, “but we have this whole section in the code that describes a short term rental.”
Corcoran said the current law says, “with a short term rental you can have an adjacent house and a house across the street that you can rent out but with a maximum limit of two. However, if you rent part of the home you live in, then you can only rent one of the auxiliary structures. These rentals are for 30 days of less.”
Corcoran said, “if you own and live in just one house, you can apply to rent a portion of the inside but that would be a bnb, which is owner-occupied.”
Corcoran said they may make adjustments to the rule of renting up to 50 percent of a structure, especially with an eye toward having a clearer definition, checking on how it is measured and how it may be enforced.
“My opinion is either you go by bedrooms or you’ve got to go back to your original permit and say you can only have so many people in the house because if your permit says your septic is good for 5 people then you can only have 5 in the house.” he said. “Again, how do you regulate that, very hard, but at least we have it defined in our code and that is what you’re getting permitted for. So if they do have a septic backup and they do have an issue, we can say this is what you signed and now we have cause to go after you because you broke the law.”
Corcoran said the town is not trying to stop people from doing things on their property, “but we do have to be cognizant of the person’s personal property next to it.”
Planning Board member Cindy Lanzetta reminded the Town Board, “that the law we put into existence allows for a homeowner to rent their house out for a short term rental.”
Lanzetta said Marlborough is lacking in hotels, “or accommodations for people who want to do the agri-tourism and might want to come for a weekend for the pick-your-owns and go to some of the wineries.”
Lanzetta noted that there were no regulations on short term rentals, which leaves people to do whatever they want to do. She also said that having a set of regulations will prevent strangers from coming in and out of the community.
Lanzetta believes that renting out two auxiliary structures benefits people “who are property-rich, so you’ve eliminated the thought that you’re trying to help out the little guy because you would have to have money to meet those criteria.”
Lanzetta said there is still confusion about the law.
“Under the way the law was written and it was passed in 2021, all you had to do was own the house and permanently reside in that house and then you could rent it out,” she said. “It didn’t say you had to actually be inhabiting the house as you rented it out.”
Lanzetta said all of this is going to be difficult for the Planning Board to review, administer and for the town to enforce, pointing out that this is making it next to impossible to work with an applicant.
“It doesn’t make sense and I have not seen any other towns doing this but at least if someone has four bedrooms, one of them you cannot rent out, you are only allowed three to rent out,” she said. “That makes sense.”
Lanzetta said she has no problem with eliminating the bnb statute and keeping the law on short-term rentals, as is, for the time being. In April, she wrote an email to the Town Board, stating that, “We believe that the law is operational, as is, and it would be premature to change the law before we have a better understanding of how it is functioning.”