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Queensbury imposes 5-day minimum on Airbnb rentals

QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In June, the town of Queensbury adjusted the rules governing property owners who want to rent their homes short-term. If you own property in Queensbury and want to put it up on a service like Airbnb or Vrbo this summer, you’ll have to do it for at least five days at a time.

The town unanimously passed a resolution in late June requiring short-term rentals to run for a minimum span of five days at a time, stopping summer renters from taking property for a single night or weekend. The limit is set in place from May 15 to Sept. 15, to combat the phenomenon of the summertime “weekend warrior.”

“The idea was to discourage weekend party houses that keep turning into multi-party houses, and reduce the turbulence of having couple-day rentals with people having to clean up after them,” explained Queensbury Ward 2 Councilman Harrison Freer, a driving force behind the resolution. “We had several properties that were in this mode way too much.”

The phenomenon that sees rental properties become loud, messy, or genuinely unsafe for the surrounding community has cropped up a few places this summer. They can include bachelor and bachelorette parties, graduation celebrations, and anything else that could get rowdy when the inhabitants don’t feel responsible for the site of the celebration.

One might hear the news and immediately assume that Queensbury’s Lake George-adjacent properties, located in the town’s first ward, would be the main culprit for disruptive parties. In reality, the town only knows of one incident across the two miles of Lake George that it meets where a rental property had disruptive activity that warranted a complaint. In that one case, the complaint was solved by the property owner, and never went to the town.

The largest complaints the town heard revolved around parties at two other locations: One at Sunnyside Lake, and two more at West Mountain, west of Glens Falls. In many cases, smaller issues at properties get reported to homeowners by neighbors, registered as points of contact beforehand. Those issues never make it to the town’s attention.

Freer says that the decision hasn’t been met with much pushback. In the summer, the majority of visiting families and groups come for a week or more anyway. The cutoff in September will come just in time, as visitors’ schedules shift, too.

“On the off-season, it’s more weekends. Balloon Fest, Ice Castles, and other events. People don’t come up for a whole week,” Freer said.

There is one point on which the town has heard some disagreement. In addition to the five-day rule, Queensbury has also put a 120-day limit on how often homeowners can rent out property in a given year. According to Freer, that decision was made to stop LLCs with no stake in the community from buying up and renting out properties at the detriment of local neighbors; a course of action which has resulted in legal battles up in the Adirondacks, in Lake Placid and North Elba.

Legal action
Queensbury may be shielded from legal action involving companies that might capitalize on the rental market, but some wonder about action from property owners who may not be happy with the change. Lawyers at Tully Rinckey, PLLC in Albany are keeping a close eye on what’s next, especially for area locals who invested in a second home in the hopes of renting it out.

“I think there’s a lot of individuals who have decided to invest in the town of Queensbury,” said Tully Rinckey attorney Ryan McCall, a specialist in landlord/tenant cases. “Maybe they decided to purchase an Airbnb and live just outside the town. All of a sudden, now you’re really beginning to see their ability to rent that property to be restricted, as well as their ability to make money on it – the reason that a lot of them did it to start.”

McCall says that as far as he knows, Queensbury is entering fairly new territory. It isn’t often that a town steps in and puts direct limits on how Airbnb or Vrbo rentals are allowed to operate, either on the 5-day mnimum side or the 120-day side. That means that a lot of questions around the Queensbury decision must be met with a “wait and see” for now.

The law is still being finalized. Once it’s set in stone, anyone who does object strongly will have the capacity to take the town to court will be able to do so – and McCall expects to see that happen.

“I would be hard-pressed at this point to think that there wouldn’t be any (lawsuits),” he said. “I think the town of Queensbury, due to its proximity to Lake George and The Great Escape and other attractions, makes it a hotspot for Airbnb owners, so I would assume they may even decide to pool together.”

The Queensbury solution’s limits don’t mean that alternatives abound. McCall suggested that the town could instead put more responsibility on the rental property owners to vet who rents the properties.

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