Short-Term Rentals FAQ

Recent updates:

What is the goal of the Short-Term Rentals subcommittee?

Lenox’s economy derives much of its strength from the tourism industry — and nearly one in three Americans stayed in a Short-Term Rental in 2015.

At the same time, Lenox derives much of its vitality from year-round residents, and it’s likely that residents and visitors alike don’t want the town to lose its unique character.

Gathering input from citizens throughout Lenox, our aim is to assess both the opportunities and concerns presented by Short-Term Rentals. Then, together as a community, we can decide how they will fit into our long-term vision for our town.

To ensure we get good cross-section of views from across Lenox, this project is being led by team representing several Town groups, including the Planning Board, the Select Board, the Finance Committee, the Affordable Housing Committee.

What is a Short-Term Rental?

“Short-Term” means renting for 30 days or less in a home, apartment, condo, etc. including:

  • Owner-occupied — renting a room in a house where the owner remains as host.
  • Non-owner-occupied — renting a whole house or apartment with no owner on site.

Rentals of 31 days or more are not considered short term. They are subject to different regulations (as if you were leasing a property long term) and are not part of this review.

What is allowed in Lenox right now?

Currently allowed:

Not specifically addressed:

  • “Short Term Rental” of a home with no owner on site.

Note: Hotels and B&Bs are forms of Short Term lodgings that are considered “commercial” (rather than “residential”) in use and must comply with various state and local requirements.

How many Short-Term Rentals are operating in Lenox right now?

From our Host Compliance dashboard on 1/29/2018:

listings 1 29 18listing types 1 29 2013

est rented

We have engaged with a company, Host Compliance, that monitors Short-Term Rental listings across 50″ websites.

  • On Jan. 29, Host Compliance indicated we have 146 unique properties that fit the STR definition, and a total of 194 actual listings. We believe the “171” number is higher because (1) a number of inns and bed & breakfasts also use these websites to advertise rooms they have available, and (2) some homeowners rent multiple bedrooms.
  • Host Compliance also shows us other info, such as how many Short-Term Rentals are of entire homes (70%) vs. partial homes (23%).
  • And we recently began receiving data on number of nights rented. Host Compliance explains that to obtain this particular info, “We use a combination of data….we don’t get booking data, but we get calendar availability data. We then look at reviews … and take into account minimum nights stay …. and know that if we have a certain number of reviews, it typically means that there were X stays in that rental unit.”

What about collecting taxes on these rentals?

That will require enabling legislation from the State. Right now, there are two bills, H3454 and S1353, that would make tax collection possible. We are told this legislation may pass in 2018 and are monitoring the situation.

Importantly, this legislation also will likely provide additional framework for any new Lenox bylaws.

How else can I found out about issues surrounding Short-Term Rentals

There is a lot of news coverage around the issues. We typically use google to search keywords “short term rentals” or particular hosting platforms such as “airbnb” “homeaway” “flipkey” etc. and then go to the NEWS tab to research news and how other communities are dealing with the issues.

Locally, the Berkshire Eagle, Berkshire Record and Berkshire Edge newspapers have been actively writing about our meetings, forums and other steps in the process.