Back to the July-August 2023 issue

What Benefits Has Your City Seen From the Regulation of Short-Term Rentals?

Hope Fairchild

WALKER (966)

What prompted the adoption of a short-term rental ordinance in your city?

Walker’s short-term rental ordinance was adopted in 2016. As a tourist town situated on the shores of Leech Lake, we are surrounded by many resorts and hotels. The City of Walker was an obvious choice for those looking to start a short-term rental business. The city did not want to hinder business opportunities in the community, but it was important for us to make sure that neighbors of these properties were able to continue to use their properties without nuisance such as higher levels of noise, and an increased need for parking and sanitation facilities.

Each short-term rental must apply for an interim use permit. The applicant must reapply for the permit every two years and the permit is not transferrable to a new owner. To receive a vacation/private home rental permit, the applicant must obtain the appropriate lodging license from the Minnesota Department of Health and also go through an inspection by Walker’s building official. The owner must provide proof of liability insurance in the amount of $1 million. Walker’s ordinances also contain house rules and maintenance standards including parking.

Has it been an issue for city staff since the change?

The city has a three-strikes policy regarding substantiated complaints against the property. All complaints are taken seriously and are considered when reviewing a renewal application. Permitting short-term rentals this way does create more work for staff, but we feel that it is worth it to keep residents and guests safe. Residents also appreciate having a way to submit complaints on short-term rental properties that are not following the rules.

The City Council amended vacation/private home rentals at the end of 2022 to include a cap of 21 short-term rentals allowed in city limits. This equates to 5% of residential housing units in Walker. The ordinance amendment was passed due to the steady increase of rentals and the continued lack of long-term housing in our community.

Staff members continue to research what other communities are doing to regulate short-term/vacation rentals. We use sites such as Airbnb and Vrbo to search for unlicensed rentals. We are looking to add language to the ordinance that discourages unlicensed rentals by charging a daily fine.

Ben Gozola


What prompted the adoption of a short-term rental ordinance in your city?

The City of New Brighton was receiving a significant number of calls regarding events being held at one short-term rental property. Recurring issues were significant enough (gun shots, late night parties, noise, etc.) to warrant City Council action to ensure the city had leverage to end any short-term rental that wasn’t being properly managed.

What requirements are there for residents who want to use a property for short-term rental?

The city prefers taking a lighter-touch approach to new land use regulations when appropriate, so landowners wishing to rent out their home as a short-term rental must simply secure an inexpensive permit from the city. The permit authorizes the desired use, but comes with conditions on proper management and lays out specific consequences for violations.

Has it been an issue for city staff since the change?

The problem property secured the required permit and has not been a problem since. In general, the city achieved the desired win-win outcome: residents appreciate that the city has leverage to control short-term rentals when problems arise, and permit holders appreciate that the application process is simple and inexpensive.

What tips would you give other city leaders who may be interested in adopting a short-term rental ordinance?

A simple and inexpensive permitting approach can be just as effective as a complicated and expensive licensing and inspection process. The key is establishing the legal authority to end short-term rental uses when management problems arise.

What else can you share with our readers?

Educate your residents about the new program through your normal channels (newsletters, social media, etc.), but also be prepared to have a staff member periodically peruse common short-term rental sites such as Airbnb, Vrbo, and Trivago to see if new units are being made available in your city. As new rentals arise, proactively reach out to those landowners to educate them on your permitting or licensing process.