News Story

City Socks Homeowner With $150 Fine For Using Airbnb

St. Clair Shores doesn’t explicitly ban homesharing, but official says city zoning doesn’t permit it

A St. Clair Shores man was issued a citation and fined $150 by a district court after he hosted guests via the homesharing website Airbnb in the spring of 2017.

According to the St. Clair Shores’ City Attorney Robert Ihrie, homeowner Michael Dorr was engaging in a nonresidential business activity that violates the city’s zoning ordinance. St. Clair Shores also has ordinances that govern home rentals. Ihrie said Dorr was given multiple warnings before being ticketed.

As of April 6, there are no listings on homesharing services Airbnb and HomeAway from St. Clair Shores. Dorr said that when he first offered his home through Airbnb in April 2017, around 10 to 15 other homes in the city were advertised on the service.

The St. Clair Shores City Council may consider a new ordinance to create rules regulating homesharing.

Mayor Pro-Tem Candice B. Rusie said in an email that she and the other members of the city’s zoning ordinance subcommittee would look into the issue soon.

“We've heard from proponents of Airbnbs, as well as people with concerns regarding them. I can see the benefits of allowing them on a regulated, limited basis, which is why I’m open to having these discussions regarding a possible ordinance. But I also want to make certain any legitimate concerns are addressed in any eventual ordinance we may bring to council for consideration,” Rusie said in an email. “As with the process of investigating any new law, we would need to listen to people from all sides, and take into consideration issues and concerns they raise.”

If an ordinance is adopted, Dorr said he would be happy to follow it.

St. Clair Shores isn’t the only local government in Michigan that has imposed restrictions on services like Airbnb, or is considering them. Officials in Mackinaw City, Holland and Spring Lake Township have restricted homesharing.

Two bills were introduced in April 2017 that would prevent local governments from banning homesharing. The bills, are sponsored by Republican Sen. Joe Hune and Rep. Jason Sheppard, but neither has been taken up for consideration. The bills would designate the short-term rental of a dwelling as a residential rather than a commercial activity.

Dorr told Michigan Capitol Confidential that he began listing his home on Airbnb to earn extra cash to use for remodeling. He said that since he bought the house for $75,000, its value has risen significantly, and he believes he could sell it for $300,000.

Dorr said that when he began hosting guests at his home in the spring 2017, some neighbors expressed concerns about unknown guests staying in the neighborhood. Others complained that guests brought dogs with them.

Those complaints eventually reached Ihrie, who said he personally visited Dorr to tell him that hosting guests through Airbnb violated the zoning ordinance.

According to Ihrie, Dorr continued hosting guests even after he sent him a couple of warning letters. After that, Ihrie issued Dorr a citation. Dorr acknowledged he received a visit from Ihrie, but says he never received a letter.

Dorr has not hosted any Airbnb guests since early December 2017, and on March 20, the district court levied a $150 civil fine for the citation.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.