At their first meeting of the fall on Monday night, City Councilors called for immediate action on the issue of short-term rentals in the city limits after reports of nightmare scenarios in which “absentee landlords” are flagrantly skirting the law while allowing their properties to become dens of debauchery.
Earlier this year, a short-term rental ordinance went into effect in Everett. The ordinance requires that all short-term rental properties managed through booking sites like Airbnb and Vrbo be licensed just like any other business. Rental operators must apply for a license with the City, pay for said license, and have the license approved by the City Clerk in order to operate legally.
However, according to City Clerk Sergio Cornelio, he has yet to receive a single application, despite his office mailing out dozens of notices to known rental operators. The result is an unregulated market of mini-hotels cropping up all over the city, and it’s causing real problems for some residents.
Victoria Sinnickson and her husband, Paul Spring, of 193 Nichols St. recited a letter before Council in which they describe what it has been like to live in the same building as the (now illegally operated) Airbnb at 191 Nichols St.
“Living next to an Airbnb since March of 2019 has caused much stress and disruption to our lives,” the letter began.
It went on to describe how the Airbnb is regularly the site of loud house parties consisting of 20 to 30 people, mostly men, playing loud music and congregating in shared hallways at all hours of the day and night. These partygoers use drugs and alcohol and their vehicles constantly come and go, sometimes parking on the couple’s property, their letter stated.
Sinnickson takes care of her 96-year-old mother, who one time spotted a houseguest relieving himself on the lawn just outside her glass entranceway. Sinnickson has also seen guests urinating off of the top floor porch onto her driveway.
The couple has found cigarette butts and beer cans strewn around the property, and woke up one morning to find that smoke detectors in the common areas had been deactivated, creating a safety issue.
Sinnickson reported that the homeowners that purchased the unit in December of 2019, and who don’t live on the premises, refuse to speak to her after she exposed that they were also operating an illegal basement apartment in the building.
“They previously said it was their property and they could do whatever they wanted to,” she told Council.
The distraught couple called on Council to support stricter ordinances on short-term rentals. They suggested that this could include limiting them to business districts where they will not disturb residents or requiring that the operators live on the property.
Councilors sided with the pair, promising to crack down not just on the owners of the Nichols Street rental, but on short-term rentals citywide.
Councilors Michael McLaughlin and Wayne Matewsky proposed that the short-term rental ordinance be reviewed at the next Legislative Affairs Committee meeting in order to make the necessary changes.
“The homeowners need to live at the property,” said Councilor McLaughlin. “If they’re going back to Winchester or Somerville, they don’t care about 191 Nichols Street. They’re not being disturbed.”
“This is what absentee landlords are going to do,” said Councilor Matewsky, who compared the Nichols Street Airbnb to the fraternity in the film ‘Animal House.’ “It’s unacceptable.”
“The ordinance needs to be tweaked,” said Councilwoman Rosa DiFlorio. “You absolutely have to live on the property. We will get it done.”
Councilor John McKinnon suggested adding a measure that every time emergency services is called to the site of an Airbnb, that the homeowner be billed for the visit.
The City Clerk admitted that he has received complaints about short-term rentals at other locations, but none as egregious as the aforementioned case.
“Even one is enough,” said Councilman Stephen Simonelli.
Councilor Peter Napolitano suggested learning from neighboring towns that have had success in gaining control over their short-term rental markets, such as Malden.
“Malden has shut a lot of these down, created new ordinances and created zoning,” he said. “Most of the [Airbnbs] listed back in June are now closed.”
Councilor McLaughlin isn’t opposed to Airbnbs operating legally and safely in Everett, but said guidelines must be more rigid.
“It’s a great business to have, but they need to have restrictions,” he said.
Airbnb did not return a request for comment prior to the deadline for this article.