KSN Investigates: Short-term rentals

KSN Investigates

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Short-term rentals in your home, like Airbnb or Vrbo, are becoming more common in Wichita. But fair warning! Online companies make it clear: it’s up to you to know the law when you’re renting out your place.

Knowing the rules

Chapter 5 of Wichita city code, under hotels and rooming houses, says, “a transient guest is any person who occupies a sleeping accommodation for a period of less than one week.”

That ordinance covers hotels and motels, but what about short-term rentals?

“We don’t, in our zoning code, have them specifically addressed as a short-term rental,” said Scott Knebel, City of Wichita Planning Manager. “In a residentially zoned area, our code doesn’t permit that presently, that’s correct,” as he referred back to the seven-day rule.

That means if you’re renting out your place on one of the short-term rental apps, and if you live in a residentially zoned area, and if your guests stay for less than a week, you’re violating Wichita city code and could be fined up $500.

One neighborhood’s experience

“We just needed to address it as a neighborhood,” said Patricia Hileman, the president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association. “It isn’t a problem until it becomes a problem.”

Hileman told KSN about some homeowners who recently moved to the neighborhood and rented out their place for Airbnb for much of the summer.

“It sort of became a party house, and you know we’re a residential neighborhood, we’re putting kids to bed and trying to wake up for work in the morning,” added Hileman.

Hileman told us they took care of the situation by contacting the homeowners who made some changes to their online listing. It now says in bold print, “Absolutely no parties. Quiet hours 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.”

Difficult to enforce

Here’s the other dilemma: The city of Wichita says, although some homeowners could be violating the seven-day rule, the city has to get a look at the owner’s financial records which requires a court-ordered subpoena and that is time consuming.

“Quite frankly it’s not something that the city has the resources to do,” said Knebel.

Knebel says the city is getting ready to rewrite city code to update things like short-term rentals.

“I would say that the regulations themselves probably need updating and that’s something that is on our radar and it’s something that we have been discussing,” said Knebel.

The city is also considering taxation, or making a public listing of all short-term rentals in the city. But the city didn’t give us a timeline for when that will happen.

Advice from two industry leaders

Both Airbnb and Vrbo have some information warning property owners about the many laws that could impact the short-term rental of a property. But you have to look for the advice.

On the Vrbo homepage, users can click on “Help,” then on “Government Requirements,” then on “What are my city’s potential regulations?”

It lists some cities, but not Wichita. And the very first line says:

Before you advertise your property for rent, you should always review state and local laws regarding short-term property rentals.”

From Vrbo.com

On the Airbnb website, click on “Host a home,” at the bottom of the page, under “Hosting,” click on “Responsible Hosting.” It takes you to a long article about safety, hazards and neighbors. Then it gets to “General Regulations.”

The bottom of the article lists dozens of towns, but not Wichita.

It also includes this advice:

Ensure you look up any permitting, zoning, safety, and health regulations that may apply.”

From Airbnb.com

Links to what other cities are doing:

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