RANDOLPH, NJ - Airbnb rentals may no longer be available in Randolph after the council received multiple complaints about weekend rentals turned party destinations in single-family neighborhoods.
Director of Health Mark Caputo and Township Manager Stephen Mountain tried to find options to work with homeowners, but nothing was simple enough. The council decided to move forward with an ordinance revision limiting rentals to a minimum of 30 days.
The original short-term rental ordinance was designed with the Mount Freedom resort area in mind and had a vision of families enjoying the activities around Randolph and returning to the home in the evenings.
“These groups are looking at the house as the destination,” Mountain said. Residents over the past two summers have increasingly complained about two properties rented out every weekend from April through October with trash issues, car lights shining through neighbors’ windows all hours of the night and people “milling about,” he explained.
Mayor Jim Loveys was hesitant to accept the suggestion, “Personally I don’t like the thought of government overreach dictating what people can or can’t do with their private property. However, when it impacts the quality of life for those surrounding… then unfortunately, a few bad apples spoils the bunch.”
Although Loveys and several other council members admitted they weren’t aware these rentals had become an issue, they felt the enforcement challenges and neighborhood complaints made the 30-day minimum worth considering.
“I received multiple phone calls on multiple occasions,” said former mayor Mark Forstenhausler. “They leave the neighbors upset because they had a great time that weekend, but the neighbors are trying to enjoy their house on a Saturday night, and they can’t.”
“It’s not fair to the taxpayers to have their neighbor renting on a day-to-day basis to people who don’t live here and don’t care about the community,” Forstenhausler concluded.
The current ordinance requires homeowners to have an inspection before and after each rental, paying a $50 certification fee for each inspection. The process originally gave the homeowner some leverage in case the renters damaged the property, but now adds a layer of inconvenience for both the town and the homeowner.
“If they’re renting multiple times in a month, they’re having to do multiple inspections and pay the fee,” Mountain commented, “and in the case of the one property, that added level of burden finally convinced them to… turn over to a year-to-year rental, but the other location did not show any indication that the process was changing their mind.”
“In fairness to those engaging in this business, there has been compliance when we asked them to submit to the certification of habitability process,” Caputo added.
Several neighbors also spoke in favor of the regulation.
“I live on a cul-de-sac. I moved out there because it was quiet. I have woods across the street, but it’s like a frat house, and that’s not what we moved to Randolph for,” said resident David Cameron.
“Sometimes there’s 30-40 cars,” said 30-year Randolph resident Pam Nicholas. “Sometimes they’re on my front lawn, blocking my driveway, and my kids can’t get it. It is every weekend, and you don’t know who’s there, and it’s scary.”
“I’m a big believer in individual rights, so it’s painful for me to get up here and do this and call the police every weekend,” commented resident Pat Daly. “It’s been a nightmare for us… We have a high school party, basically, across the street every weekend… We have Ubers coming in from sundown to sun up.”
Currently, only these two homes have been consistently rented and causing problems locally. The township regularly checks Airbnb and HomeAway for other rentals and to enforce the current policy, but realize that some properties may be missed.
“It’s not a big market, so we’re not taking anything away from anyone,” Daly said. “After talking to Steve and Mark, I think after researching it, a 30 day minimum is the solution.”
When asked what would stop a homeowner for listing the property as 30 days but only renting for a weekend, Mountain mentioned Randolph does have an active month-to-month rental community and the rates would be too low.
“If someone tried to put the price point at what it is for a weekend and listed it for 30 days, they might get someone at 30 days for a very low rate,” he said.
With the general consensus of the council in agreement, the health department will move forward with revising the ordinance to make a minimum of 30 days for home rentals. A public session and formal vote on this will held at a future meeting.
“Sometimes these are iterative,” added legal counsel Edward Buzak. “You take a step, see what it does. If it doesn’t work, you try something else and build on it.”