Short-Term Rental Regulation Update
As of January 2024, we remain in limbo with the future regulation of short-term rentals. While currently permitted in residential districts, the opposition takes issue with the concept of renting residences, citing it as a commercial use. All eyes have been on a civil lawsuit involving a Nantucket resident who has sued her neighbor, claiming to be affected by noise and transient activity. Hearings wrapped up on January 3, though state Land Court judge Michael Vhay has denied request for summary judgment and first needs to determine the validity of the plaintiff’s lawsuit citing commercial use in a residential zone and if there is an objective way to prove if her claim of the nuisance can be attributed to an owner versus a tenant. Essentially, this trial is to determine whether the plaintiff has a valid complaint. Nantucket Current chronicles the trial in a December 2023 article.
The weight of this lawsuit is mighty after the results of the November 2023 Special Town Meeting. The primary purpose of adding a second meeting in 2023 was to grant the Short-Term Rental Workgroup more time to collect meaningful data, identify pain points, and present a set of concepts for the citizens’ approval that would make STRs equitable for the community and allow the time-honored tradition of renting one’s home to continue to contribute to the island economy. More details can be found here, but they generally acknowledge themes such as: tax revenue, discouraging investor-only ownership, reducing rental turnover and issues arising from transient activity, and maintaining the year-round housing stock. Creating this regulatory structure was also intended to reduce the threat of lawsuits among neighbors. While some believe that the rejection of the STRWG’s proposals is a win for unbridled STRs, others are concerned about sweeping bylaw changes as the result of one civil suit, citing the precedents that have been set in other communities in the state and throughout the country. If history is any indication, both sides will continue to push.
Looking forward, the Town of Nantucket is planning to continue its work creating a local rental property registry (the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has already done so in 2019) and expects to roll it out in late January, almost a year after intended. The project has been fast-tracked after the firing of Granicus and the hiring of new project vendor GovOS. Health Department director Roberto Santamaria believes there are at least 2000 STRs in existence on the island, and this registry aims to address health and safety issues that can stem from occupancy, parking, and utilities. Nantucket Current describes the regulations in more detail in a December 2023 article. The upcoming summer is intended to be an education and outreach period before the registry becomes required by November 1, 2024, and enforcement by the Health Department will commence.
Be sure to keep the conversation going with your Fisher agent and check back here for updates as they become available.