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Howell council introduces ordinance to prohibit short-term rentals

HOWELL – The Howell Township Council will hold a public hearing on Sept. 14 and consider an ordinance that will, if adopted, prohibit the short-term rental of housing units, prohibit the rental of amenities, prohibit the advertisement of rentals and amend penalties for violations.

Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Thomas Russo, Councilman John Bonevich, Councilwoman Pamela Richmond and Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell voted “yes” on a motion to introduce the ordinance at the Aug. 17 council meeting.

Members of the public will be able to comment on and ask questions about the ordinance on Sept. 14.

The ordinance states that no rental facility, rental unit or dwelling, including, but not limited to a duplex, multiple, or single-family, or residential structure may be rented or leased for  less than 90 days.

In regard to the rental of amenities, “the lease or rental for any purpose and for any period of time, of any amenity, feature or accessory that is appurtenant to or associated with any rental facility, rental unit or dwelling … is prohibited.”

“Amenity, feature or accessory” includes, but is not limited to, swimming pools, pool cabanas, accessory structures, hot tubs, decks, patios, yards and the like, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance also prohibits the advertisement of rentals.

The proposed ordinance does not amend the portion of the law regarding nuisances. The ordinance still states that “No rental facility shall be used in a manner which will result in any unreasonable disturbance or disruption to the surrounding properties and property owners or of the public in general, such that it would constitute a nuisance …”

Regarding penalties, the ordinance states that “any landlord, tenant, property owner or other person violating the provisions of this section shall be subject to the penalty provisions of this chapter. The township shall also have the right to enjoin violations of this section in any court … by way of order to show cause or similar process. All costs attendant to enforcement … shall be assessed as a lien against the subject property, enforceable and collectible in the same manner as liens for delinquent real property taxes and municipal service charges.”

Any person who violates the law, upon conviction in municipal court, or such other court having jurisdiction, will be liable for a fine not exceeding $2,000. Each day a violation occurs will be deemed a separate and distinct violation subject to the penalty provisions … Failure to register each rental unit shall result in a fine.

Recently, officials in neighboring Jackson issued summonses to individuals who were renting out private pools in that community.

Howell Township Manager Brian Geoghegan said, “Our ordinance is broader than just pools. It covers houses (i.e., Airbnb, Vrbo – vacation rentals by owner) and amenities (pools, cabanas, deck areas).

“Around July 4, the township began receiving many complaints from residents of Peter Forman Drive and the surrounding area about pool rentals.

“The first home that was identified as the issue received an order from our code enforcement department to cease and desist (the rentals).

“The township then had a special counsel begin prepping to seek an order to show cause and a temporary restraint from the homeowner (from) hosting future parties. The owner entered into a consent agreement with the township, approved by a Superior Court judge.

“The parties then shifted to an address across the street from the first (home). The township followed the same process with the second home and is currently in the process of working on a consent order with that homeowner,” Geoghegan said.

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