Published August 27, 2010, 12:00 AM

Rules tighten for rental lake homes

If you advertise your lakeshore property as a short-term rental property – as a weekend getaway, for instance – you might want to check your mailbox.

If you advertise your lakeshore property as a short-term rental property – as a weekend getaway, for instance – you might want to check your mailbox.

At its Tuesday meeting, Douglas County commissioners approved a letter that will be sent to lakeshore property owners in the near future explaining new procedures for licensing, inspections and safety.

The letter will be sent to an estimated 40 lakeshore property owners in the Douglas County area, according to Sandy Tubbs, Douglas County Public Health director, who presented the information to the board.

Tubbs explained that Minnesota law (statute 157) requires that rental properties providing sleeping accommodations to the public for periods of less than one week be licensed and inspected to ensure the safety and health of renters.

The state license is required regardless of any license or approval received from the local city or township, Tubbs added.

Tubbs noted that this is not just an issue in Douglas County, but it is a “really big issue statewide,” which is why the Legislature has stepped in and adopted statutes and regulations.

In response to questions from commissioners, Tubbs said, “We don’t have a choice but to send out the letter. We need to send out letters to those who are advertising.”

In addition, she said that if lakeshore property owners advertise as a “weekly rental,” then they must be weekly.

She also addressed concerns about how it is going to be monitored, noting that public health will respond to complaints.

“Unfortunately, that is the only way to monitor this,” she told the commissioners.

In recent years, vacation home rentals have increased greatly in Minnesota. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 seasonal, recreational or occasional use homes in the state of Minnesota.

While the state doesn’t have a specific definition of “vacation home rental property,” many legal and regulatory issues related to vacation home rental are currently covered in state and local statutes and regulations.

Tubbs explained that lakeshore property owners who rent out their homes for periods of less than one week would fall under the category of hotel or motel and therefore would have to be licensed. However, if lakeshore property owners rent out their homes for periods of one week or more, then they wouldn’t have to be licensed – unless there are five or more beds advertised.

In that case, it would fall under the category of a lodging establishment and therefore, would have to be licensed.

Lakeshore property owners who advertise their property for short-term renting – for periods of less than one week – will have to go through an inspection. They will be contacted by a public health sanitarian from the Douglas and Pope Counties Environmental Health Program to discuss the licensing requirement and arrange for an inspection.

The inspection will include review and examination of the following items:

•Conditional use permits or other forms of approval from the local unit of government indicating local approval of the home being rented out.

•Certificate of compliance for an individual sewage treatment system, if not connected to a municipal sewage system.

•Sleeping room sizes, locations and egress windows.

•Smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in the sleeping rooms.

•Fire extinguishers.

•Swimming pool or hot tub – a separate plan review is required.

•Rental agency’s name and phone, if applicable.

•Source of water. If ground water, a copy of the well record, compliance with well code and recent bacteria and nitrate testing results. If surface water, an approved treatment system and monitoring programs.

“We need to start engaging in conversations with them [lakeshore property owners] for all practical purposes,” Tubbs said. “Then they can change their rental agreements if need be.”

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