Ninety-day minimum sounds right for house rentals

Next month the Hinsdale Village Board is likely to take action on short-term rentals, changing the zoning code to prohibit people from renting Hinsdale homes for fewer than a specified number of days.

Trustees, in referring the matter to the plan commission for a public hearing, suggested that threshold be 180 days. Plan commissioners said they think 90 days is a more appropriate number, and we agree.

The complex nature of this issue was evident at the March 13 public hearing.

First, it’s tough to determine exactly how many Hinsdale homes are available for rent on platforms like VRBO, Airbnb and Zillow. Enter different desired dates on different platforms and a different list of houses will appear.

Second, while many commissioners and speakers at the public hearing expressed a desire to require such properties to be licensed, the village — as a non-home rule town — doesn’t have the authority to do so. All officials can do is require homeowners to be listed on a registry.

Third is the key issue of balancing the rights of property owners to use their property as they wish with the rights of those who live next door.

“Parking, noise, excessive activity, the presence of unlicensed animals and other nuisance activities, along with concerns for the health and safety of renters, the conduct of prohibited commercial activity within residential areas and the protection of the peaceful and quiet nature of the village’s residential neighborhoods, are of concern to both residents and the village’s elected officials and necessitate the prohibition of short-term rentals in residential zoning districts within the village,” trustees wrote in materials submitted to the plan commission.

Several residents spoke at a village board meeting and at this month’s public hearing about problems with rental properties in their neighborhood. Living next door to a house that had multiple guests a week was “terrifying” and “very unpleasant,” one resident said.

Multiple families staying in a home at one time, too many parked cars, garbage and parties were among the complaints. Commissioner Cynthia Curry said when her house was robbed in January, Hinsdale police said rings of thieves from other countries travel to affluent communities and rent properties there in order to commit crimes.

Sharing a different perspective, owners of rental properties in town said the homes meet a need for families who are displaced due to a renovation project or need to rent after they’ve closed on one home and are waiting for their next one to be available. Two sisters who own a home on Eighth Street that has been in their family for four generations said they are happy to comply with village rules and listen to complaints from neighbors but also need rental revenue to be able to afford to keep the house. They lobbied for a 60- or 90-day minimum.

Perhaps the best argument of the night came from Commissioner Jim Krillenberger, who said he’s a big fan of property rights but can’t ignore the negative externality — an economic phrase that describes a situation in which one party makes another party worse off but does not bear the costs from doing so.

Determining the exact number of days to set as a minimum is an art, not a science. But after spending an hour and 45 minutes on the issue at the plan commission meeting, we think 90 days is a good place to start. We hope trustees agree.