BAR HARBOR — Town Council set a public hearing for Oct. 3 regarding a short-term rental registration ordinance and tabled a proposed long-term rental registry program during its meeting last week.
Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain initiated the request to amend the chapter of the municipal code pertaining to short-term rentals, specifically the life safety inspections component.
Since implementing short-term rental regulations and inspections in 2006, the National Fire Protection Association requirements the town adopted are no longer up to standard with state-mandated international building codes.
For example, the state codes have different sleeping area and fire alarm standards than the NFPA.
Chamberlain said her goal is to eliminate these inconsistencies by aligning the short-term rental requirements with the new building codes.
“If anything, I think we relaxed some of the standards,” she said.
Chamberlain and Bar Harbor Fire Department Chief Matt Bartlett also proposed a new long-term rental registration ordinance based on findings from a task force formed earlier this year.
The amendment would require owners to register their long-term rental units with the town. Landlords would provide information such as location and age of units, rental periods, occupant details, and status of sprinkler and alarm systems.
Chamberlain said the Code Enforcement Office deals with long-term rentals on a complaint-base system, which does not adequately ensure safe and sanitary housing in Bar Harbor. This data gathering process would act as the first step in a larger goal to eventually require safety inspections for long-term rentals similar to how short-term rentals are regulated.
The years-long registration period would begin in January and be free of charge. After two months, a failure to register would result in incremental fee increases.
Council members decided to table scheduling a public hearing for the long-term rental registry program after some members expressed conflicting viewpoints to the program and language used in the ordinance.
“Short-term rentals have to be inspected to make sure they’re safe but we’re not inspecting our long-term rentals to make sure they’re safe,” council member Matt Hochman said. “If we’re not going to address safety, I don’t see any point putting this on the warrant.”
Chamberlain said the task force struggled to make a recommendation on inspections because of the lack of existing data on long-term rentals.
“We don’t know how many rentals there are out there, where they’re located and how much staff it would take to regulate, implement and enforce new rules that might be put forth,” she said.
After the 12-month registration period, the task force would reconvene to assess the information and possibly begin inspection recommendations.
“We don’t want to scare people away by overregulating,” council and long-term rental task force member Joe Minutolo said. “We have to crawl before we walk.”