NORTH ROYALTON – City council has enacted a moratorium on short-term home rentals, such as those through websites such as Airbnb, to determine if city ordinances need strengthened to better protect residents and property.

Those in favor believe this is the right move, but it did not come unanimously.

Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck said sites like Airbnb are a new advancement in technology, something the city has to make sure it is prepared for.

“A moratorium allows us to be prepared by updating our code, if need be, but we need activity to stop while we sort this out,” he said.

Through websites like Airbnb, residents can easily rent out rooms, in-law suites or their entire home on a short-term basis. There are only a handful of such properties in Royalton, but Ward 5 Councilwoman Cheryl Hannan has been approached by a resident concerned about living next door to such a property rented out regularly.

Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell, Ward 2 Councilman Gary Petrusky and Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw, however, voted against the moratorium, believing it is unnecessary.

“The regular legislative process is a much better way to go. I am already working with the law department to come up with legislation for some basic regulations for short-term rentals,” Langshaw said.

“I did not see this as a problem in North Royalton that warranted another law and did not like the penalty of $1,000 fine and/or jail,” Nickell added.

Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris supported the moratorium and said without a penalty component to enforce this, he wouldn’t have supported it.

“Short-term rentals are money grabs for the homeowner and do provide a service that others use. Like other rental property, however, we need to put in place measures to ensure that their use are properly being taxed to be fair to others,” he said.

The city has a rental registration ordinance requiring anyone who rents their property out, whether long or short term, short term defined as 30 days or less, to acquire a permit from the building department.

Residents who apply for a short-term rental permit will be rejected until the moratorium is lifted, which can be done at any time by council. As before, those who opt to bypass a permit are in breach of the rental registry ordinance, a first degree misdemeanor which can result in a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

But Law Director Tom Kelly stressed the moratorium is not meant to punish.

“The moratorium was intended to encourage our community, our residents to obey the law and to recognize that council wishes to consider this issue on a longer term basis until they come to some conclusion. Our people are generally very law abiding and will respect as they should,” he said.

Mayor Bob Stefanik assured residents are given ample opportunity to do the right thing and usually do, almost never resulting in a penalty.

“When we find a renter, for example, that has something in the paper, we just saw one a couple of weeks ago he was renting a room in his house, the building department called him and told him, ‘you have to come in and register,’ which I believe he did,” the mayor said.

The city administration proposed the moratorium on short-term rentals specifically to allow time to amply study the issue because earlier this year, a short-term rental went awry in Seven Hills, causing headaches for the homeowner, neighbors and safety forces.

“Our current code does not adequately address short-term rentals. The moratorium will give us time to explore appropriate measures,” Hannan said.