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Ransom Gillis house. Daily Detroit photo.

It looks like the city administration got caught flat-footed yesterday when it became public that an ordinance change in 2017 is resulting in notices being sent to Detroit Airbnb hosts.

If you’re not familiar, Airbnb is an online service that allows people to easily list and rent out a room or a property on a short-term basis.

In a statement sent this morning, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says that the ordinance as written appears to ban all homeowners from having even their own friends and relatives stay at their homes if that friend or relative is paying rent.

Here’s the Mayor’s statement in full:

Detroit homeowners have been able to rent out a room in their homes for more than 100 years and we don’t believe the new ordinance was intended to take away that right. The ordinance as written appears to ban all homeowners from having even their own friends and relatives stay at their homes if that friend or relative is paying them rent. The public was never told that was intended.  I have asked the law department to review this question and give BSEED guidance.  

Media reports that enforcement efforts have begun under this ordinance are false. Over the last two years there have been a few enforcement actions that have involved Airbnb properties, but those tickets have arisen from other complaints or violations related to those properties.

Until the law department review is complete, BSEED will not be ticketing homeowners for renting out rooms in their own residence, whether through airbnb or otherwise.  BSEED and the administration will be working with City Council to resolve these issues. 

In response, Airbnb’s Ben Breit said the following:

We applaud the city for doing the right thing and protecting every day people who are sharing their homes to pay the bills. Airbnb has partnered with hundreds of cities to develop commonsense home sharing regulations, and we look forward to collaborating with Detroit leaders moving forward.

Two Cents: It’s good that this looks like it will be resolved. It’s bad that this made it into law — with notices being sent — before anyone picked up on it.. even the Mayor himself.