Opinion: Year-round rentals are not ideal for some homeowners

By Rebecca Richardson

As I read on Jan. 30 in the Islander about the concerns some town officials have over year-round housing shortages, I had some additional thoughts to add.

There is one issue I have not seen strongly addressed in this debate that is very important to property owners trying to decide how to rent their properties. Renting to parties long term (year round or seasonal/school term) is a tough thing to do for a property owner. The damage renters can do, long term, and the risk one takes with rents not being paid is a very real concern. When you, as an owner, have expenses related to your property, you cannot afford for a renter to not pay their rent for an extended period of time. And it is my understanding that the eviction process can take many months and is very costly. Anyone you talk to who rents their property to year-round tenants has a horror story or two on this issue.

People complaining about the difficulty of finding long term housing often fail to mention that they have pets. Pets can cause damage long term. And again, the owner of a rental property ends up paying a great deal of money when renters leave, with potential damage. I tried renting my vacation rental cottage one winter and there was damage from a pet (torn screens, scratched baseboards) and the renter smoked in the house, defying the terms of the lease. As a result, I will never rent to long-term renters again.

As for COA students needing housing, I would put that back on the college. If they can’t provide housing for their students, then that’s a whole other issue they need to address. With high tuition rates and the endowments the college enjoys, they should be able to build dormitory housing for all of their students. This should not be the responsibility of Bar Harbor residents. Most of these students are here for the school and are not permanent residents. And I know many property owners who have had unsuccessful experiences with COA student rentals.

As for the idea Ms. Gagnon threw out about vacation rentals changing a property’s status to a commercial property, that’s just irresponsible to suggest that renting a private home, for however long, redefines it as commercial. If you want to create a housing crisis, that would do it. Does the town want to dictate what a private citizen must do with their property? These casual comments about restrictions and zone changing are very harmful to citizens of the town. They sound like veiled threats that “if you don’t stop doing weekly rentals, we’re going to cause problems.” I know several people who are feeling anxious by the town’s frequent proclamations. If the town wants to put a proposal out there for changes to how a person rents their property then do so on a ballot. It’s not appropriate for town employees to threaten to pull people’s livelihood just because a group of summer workers, college students and people who feel they are entitled to live in downtown Bar Harbor cheaply are complaining.

Rebecca Richardson lives in Bar Harbor

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