Waunakee, Westport to impose stricter rules on Airbnb, short-term rental home owners

Waunakee Police Chief Kevin Plendl said Airbnbs and other short-term rental housing has posed problems for the village and surrounding neighborhoods in recent months.

After hearing from neighbors who have voiced their concerns over safety and noise from strangers coming into their communities, the Waunakee Village Board is implementing stricter rules for short-term rental homeowners.

The most recent incident happened last Friday, when a group of 20-something-year-olds threw a house party at a home they were renting while the homeowners weren’t there.

“This is a perfect example of why we need these rules in place,” Plendl said.

However, Akil Huntley-Cooper, who owns the home that this party happened at, said he’s had 90 people rent his home in the last year, and this is the first time he’s had a problem.

“I was away from my home,” Huntley-Cooper said. “I was monitoring my home from my security system. Once I saw that the people who had booked our home went over the occupancy rate that we have for our home, and we realized they were having a party, I came back home to help the police shut it down.”

Beth Hornung, Huntley-Cooper’s neighbor, was there when the party happened. She said the house party is just one example of the other issues that have come up from Airbnbs or rental homes around the area.

“You know, not just next door, but in the community, there had been several Airbnbs that were really problematic for the people that lived in that neighborhood,” Hornung said.

Plendl said the Waunakee Police Department has worked closely with other law enforcement agencies in neighboring communities and many have agreed that short-term rental housing has posed some issues recently.

Waunakee’s village administrator Todd Schmidt agreed, saying, “The village board saw that there was reason to enact rules to address the broader community concerns.”

The new rules apply to all short-term rental homes that are rented out more than 10 times per year. The following rules go into effect next Thursday:

The owner of the home has to live there.
The home has to be rented for a minimum of six days and can’t be rented for more than 180 days a year.
The homeowner has to have a state of Wisconsin Tourism Rooming House License and a Department of Revenue seller’s permit.
The home must be annually licensed by the village.
There must be a room tax.

Hornung said she and other neighbors are in favor of the new rules.

“I think the regulations that they’re putting in place will really protect the neighbors in the neighborhood and hopefully will also protect the people who are doing short-term rentals.”

A short-term rental homeowner, who did not want to be interviewed on camera, disagreed with the new rules saying, “The rules also do not apply to people that rent their house for less than 10 days a year. So anyone can rent without any regulations, room tax, or public health inspection … I do not think that these rules are meant to keep the village safe, nor to I think the village in any way worked with short term renters to help them operate their business safely. I think that these rules encourage homeowners to operate their business outside of the rules and will eventually hurt the community as a whole because of it.”

Huntley-Cooper felt similarly and said, “I think those things are definitely up for a longer discussion. I think some of the people who are making the rules may not understand the actual marketplace of how short term rental works.”

The Waunakee Village Board approved the ordinance and it will go into effect next Thursday. Short term rental homeowners have until Dec. 1 to get the proper licensing to continue renting their property out.

To watch the board meetings where the rules were discussed, click here.

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