Short-Term Vacation Rentals: Are They Legal in Pennsylvania?

August 13, 2019

Short-Term Vacation Rentals: Are They Legal in Pennsylvania?

Like many places in Pennsylvania, the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area sees its fair share of tourism.  People come from more urban areas to appreciate the natural beauty. In some cases, families take advantage of short-term vacation rentals to be near college campuses.

 However, if you own a home and want to make it available for a short time, there’s something you should know. It may not be legal. 

Many people who rent out vacation homes take advantage of websites such as Airbnb or Vrbo. They put up a few pictures, list available dates and the set up a price. Depending on the local zoning ordinances, owners could find themselves in court.

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania courts ruled on involving short-term rentals.  Slice of Life, LLC v. Hamilton Township Zoning Board, et al. was decided by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on April 26, 2019.

In the past, the courts have determined that short-term vacation rentals in residential areas are not permissible. They essentially give neighborhoods a feeling of transients overtaking them.

The Slice of Life case took on similar issues. The local zoning ordinance said that a “family” requires a “single housekeeping unit.” The court was asked to decide if that meant single family homes could only be used by one family.

Court Rules Against Short-Term Vacation Rentals

As it turns out, the Slice of Life company bought property with the intention of using it for short-term rentals. The owner, Val Kleyman decided it made business sense to invest in the home and let others use the home. 

When the property was offered for rent, there were some limited restrictions. For example, renters needed to stay a minimum of two nights. The house was big enough to sleep 14 people.

However, there was the issue of the location as it was zoned in a residential area. Generally speaking, these types of requirements are intended to protect people from “increased noise and traffic, protect children living there and their ability to utilize quiet, open spaces for play, and to maintain “the residential character of the neighborhood.”

Ultimately, zoning officials weren’t happy with the fact that Kleyman was using his three-bedroom house to bring outsiders into the area. It wasn’t as if Kleyman ever lived there. The home was purely used for the short-term rentals.

When the court ruled on the matter, they decided that the property wasn’t being used as a single-family dwelling and it was therefore against local zoning ordinances to use it for short-term rentals.

The bottom line is that before you decide to rent out your home or any part of it, you need to know zoning ordinances.

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Have questions regarding real estate law? Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano can help you determine the right way to proceed. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

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