Deadline to register rentals delayed

Landlords of short-term leases have until January 2024 to comply

Although owners of short-term rentals must be registered with the state by New Year’s Day, lo­cal licensing has been postponed until 2024.

The town council at its meet­ing Monday agreed to a recom­mendation by Town Planner Lisa Bryer to delay the deadline by a year. The reason, according to Bryer, is that the company in charge of administering the pro­gram, Granicus, has a backlog of work.

“Their schedule does not mesh with our schedule,” she said.

Granicus is working to install a database, establish a payment process and set up a notification template. The company also is determining which municipal departments will share in the ad­ministrative duties. That work, however, will not be done until the end of April.

“They are being affected by the success of short-term rentals across the country,” Bryer said.

Although no official vote was taken to delay the registration, Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero said a resolution to that effect will be on the council’s next agenda.

Councilwoman Mary Mea­gher, who was on the call to Granicus with Bryer, said the company has picked up 42 more clients since signing a contract with Jamestown. “

“They were just completely backed up,” she said. “Short- term rentals are on everybody’s radar.”

Bryer expects for licensing and inspections to open in May in order to get all the short-term rentals legally operating by Jan. 1, 2024.

As for the state registry, 32 properties in Jamestown have been registered as short-term rentals after mandated registra­tion through the Rhode Island Department of Business Regu­lation became law in January. Councilman Randy White said there should be at least 100 more local properties that need to reg­ister before the end of the year.

The council also voted to es­tablish a working group to rec­ommend changes to the ordi­nance that governs short-term rentals, which was passed in August. White and Meagher will represent the council. The other members will come from a group of about 30 short-term landlords that presented proposed amend­ments to the councilors at their Nov. 7 meeting.

Represented by Ron Ratcliffe, the objective of the group of prop­erty owners is “simply to affect some very reasonable changes to the ordinance, many of which will significantly reduce the adminis­trative burden on the town.”

The group is recommending for the council to amend the ordi­nance to have a “self-certification process.” The current law requires properties that are rented for fewer than 30 consecutive days to have biennial inspections conducted by the fire marshal and building offi­cial. The reason for the proposed change is because the municipality currently does not have the capaci­ty to “take on the additional work.” The amendment, moreover, would remove the town from any liability if a lawsuit were to arise from pub­lic certifications.

The group also wants the town to strike a provision that says “a busi­ness entity or trust is not defined as a resident for the purposes of this ordinance.” Because nonresidents pay a higher registration fee than local taxpayers per the law, James­town residents who own their houses as a trust or LLC also are required to pay the higher fee.

The group, moreover, wants to loosen the response time from two to four hours. Under the cur­rent ordinance, the owner, or a designated representative, must be available to respond to a complaint within two hours. The group, how­ever, said “there are innumerable reasons why people must turn off their phones during the day for more than a couple hours.” They also want the ability for renters to provide a backup representative in case the primary contact does not respond.

According to the ordinance, the owners of short-term rentals will have to be registered with the town clerk in order to legally rent their homes for fewer than 30 consecu­tive days. The fee for residents who operate these properties would be $300, which would be doubled for owners not considered residents. A resident is defined “as the record owner of a parcel of real estate who physically resides in the sub­ject property for no less than 183 days per year, and has designated the subject property as their legal residence for a driver’s license, voter registration, state identifica­tion card or other suitable form as proof of domicile.”

The group is asking for the fee to be lowered from $350 to $50 for residents. They also want to ex­empt owner-occupied short-term rentals.