Raleigh orders homeowner to halt online room rentals
Posted December 2, 2014
Updated December 8, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — City officials on Tuesday ordered a Raleigh man to stop renting out a room in his Five Points home through the Airbnb website while the city studies the growing trend of using such online services.
Airbnb offers unique places to rent in more than 190 different countries. The site lists hundreds of rooms for rent in Raleigh, and many are nightly rentals in private homes – areas that aren't zoned for conducting business such as offering accommodations.
One of Gregg Stebben's neighbors filed a complaint about Airbnb rentals in his home, prompting the Raleigh City Council to ask city staff to review the practice and how other cities nationwide are addressing it.
The findings are expected by the end of January.
Council members Mary-Ann Baldwin and Bonner Gaylord said the issue needs thoughtful consideration as a delicate balance between protecting neighborhoods and acting like an innovative and progressive city.
Councilman John Odom said he is "totally against" renting rooms in residential neighborhoods, while Councilwoman Kay Crowder called allowing the practice "a nightmare."
"This will open the door for them to lease to anyone they want, as many people they want. There is no way to police it," Odom said. "We already have plenty of rental houses, and we already have plenty of abuse even without the Internet."
City officials said they plan to send a cease and desist notice to Stebben regarding his rentals, and he will have until Jan. 31 to comply or face fines of $100 a day. The fines would increase to $500 a day if the violation continues.
Councilman Russ Stephenson asked that all Raleigh residents who rent out rooms through Airbnb be put on notice as well. City staffers said that would be impossible because zoning violations are traditionally addressed only after a complaint has been filed.
Stebben said he will abide by the city's order – "I'm not interested in breaking the law," he said. – but he said he thinks Raleigh would be making a mistake by cracking down on Airbnb.
"If we’re a tech hub or an innovation center, we can’t just turn our back on things like this," he said. "Even if you don’t like it, at least step back and objectively look at what it means for the city of Raleigh. You don’t have to like it for it to be good for the city."