By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Resident Therese Terns spoke to the City Council April 12, outlining problems with local Airbnb residential housing rentals and the problems they create in Springwells Park.
Airbnb is an online marketplace that connects homeowners with people who want short-term accommodations in a specific area. The rentals, which range from a room to an entire home, are generally less expensive that hotels, and often allow kitchen privileges, which saves people from the cost of eating out.
Airbnb is popular in tourist destination cities, which, for Dearborn, would include the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.
However, short term rentals can cause parking, noise, trash and other problems for residents living next to them.
Terns, who lives on Abbott Lane in Springwells Park, said the historical, deed-restricted neighborhood has a mixture of single-family homes and duplexes, with shared driveways, and has four Airbnb rentals on Brewster Street within 100 yards of each other, which have become a frequent topic of conversation at neighborhood meetings and informally among neighbors.
She said that one night when a resident parked in a driveway he shares with an Airbnb next door, seven men rushed out, demanding to know who he was and why he was there. While he deflected the situation, he stayed up late to make sure his 20-year-old daughter was not similarly intimidated by them when she arrived home later.
Terns said that on March 26, an Airbnb renter parked a long recreational vehicle and a U-Haul trailer on the street, monopolizing 50 feet of street parking for six days, and restricting traffic flow.
She said the Airbnb owner lives in Connecticut, so is not nearby to direct complaints.
Terns said that despite the RV receiving citations, neighbors had to put up with the intrusion for six days.
“These are only two examples of many that have occurred within a six- to seven-month time frame, giving you a snapshot of the intrusion on property owners and surrounding neighbor rights, their safety and security,” she said. “The transient nature of these businesses means continuous change and the need for vigilant surveillance.”
In a letter giving to the council, Terns said Airbnb guests arrive in multiple cars, leave garbage strewn around, do not shovel snow, create access problems with shared driveways, have excessive and noisy parties, and emit the odor of both marijuana and tobacco smoke in the close backyards.
She said some of the renters are verbally aggressive to residents.
Terns said that she cannot prove it, but there is credible evidence of sex trafficking occurring at the Airbnb rentals.
Michigan House Bill 4722 could regulate Airbnb rentals, but has not gained the attention of the State Senate.
Tim Hawkins, director of Dearborn Public Works and Facilities, who formerly led the Property Maintenance and Development Services Department, said Airbnb rentals were looked at extensively in the past, but the city has not been able to come to a solution as to how it should address the issue of the short-term rentals.
“We treated Airbnb as rentals, and we made sure the homes were inspected every three years,” he said.
Hawkins said the city received complaints before homes were registered as rentals, but none afterwards.