Airbnb Operates Without Inspections or Business Licenses in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –- As sites like Airbnb, that rent out temporary stays, become more popular, so is the controversy surrounding them.

Airbnb’s are not allowed to operate in residentially zoned areas in Springfield, yet there are nearly 100 within city limits, and all are residentially zoned.

The city told KOLR10 it’s working on passing an ordinance that would legalize them to do business in those residential areas, so that’s why none have been shut down. In the meantime, other businesses are frustrated they’re paying for licensing and property taxes that Airbnb operators aren’t.

For travelers like Linda Franey, it can be a home away from home.

“It’s in a residential neighborhood, and I don’t know, it just feels safer,” Franey said.

Homeowners rent out part or all of their property for 30 days or less. But the problem for some people is this: the homes aren’t so far away from other Springfield residents’ homes.

“Technically none of them are legal,” Daniel Neal, a senior planner for the city of Springfield, said.

Neal said he’s heard neighbor concerns about noise, traffic and the demand on sewer systems.

Franey, who stayed at an Airbnb in Springfield’s Historic District Saturday, said the site screened her for some of that.

“You get reviewed, after you’ve used them a few times, so they can check you out,” she said.

Others, say the issue is much more than a nuisance, it’s unfair competition for hotels and bed and breakfasts. The Walnut Street Inn told KOLR10 it pays for 27 different inspections and taxes – none of which currently apply to Airbnb’s.

“We’re not collecting sales tax, hotel/motel tax, or for that matter, we’re not getting any additional licensing or permits,” Neal said.

Franey isn’t sure it makes much of a difference.

“The cleanliness in hotels is not always up to my standards,” she said. “And every Airbnb I have stayed in has been pristine.”

Neal said the enforcer for these types of rentals knows what’s happening, and is waiting to see how city council wants to move forward.

“We don’t want to get in a situation where we say, ‘okay you’re shut down,’ and then the next minute we’re permitting them,” he said.

As early as the beginning of 2018, the city could pass an ordinance officially legalizing Airbnb’s in residential neighborhoods, but probably with some restrictions, for those with permanent homes there.

The city will discuss the potential new ordinance at a Plans and Policy Committee meeting in October. Airbnb has already been the topic of those meetings twice before. Each time the zoning department was asked to find out more information.

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