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Court Rules Township Can Ban Short-Term Rentals

An Ottawa County couple hoping to rent their Spring Lake Township home on a short-term basis was recently dealt a blow.

A three-judge Michigan Court of Appeals panel unanimously affirmed the township’s denial of Susan Reaume’s application for a short-term rental license that would have allowed her and her husband to rent out their 5,300-square-foot home at 18190 Lovell Road.

“Plaintiff’s use of the property for short-term rentals was never permitted under the township’s R-1 zoning,” the court’s seven-page published opinion by Judge Amy Ronayne Krause reads. “This is consistent with case law establishing that commercial or business use of property, generally meaning uses intended to generate a profit, are inconsistent with residential uses of property… The township’s mere failure to enforce the ordinance does not confer upon plaintiff a right to continue violating the ordinance.”

Reaume and her husband, Randy Reaume, purchased the home on Spring Lake in 2003 and lived there until 2014 when they moved to Nunica. In 2015, they hired a property management company and began renting out the home, which is located in an R-1 low density residential zoning area, as a short-term vacation rental.

In December 2016, the township board adopted Ordinance No. 255 banning short-term home rentals of more than 14 days per year in the R-1 and R-2 zoning districts. It went into effect February 2017.

Susan Reaume applied the following month for a short-term rental license, but the township denied the request. She appealed to the Township Zoning Board of Appeals, which denied her appeal. The Ottawa County Circuit Court affirmed the denial.

In its opinion, the court noted that it chose to publish its opinion in light of the plaintiff citing a 2018 unpublished case, Concerned Property Owners of Garfield Twp Inc. v. Charter Twp of Garfield. The court noted it didn’t use the unpublished case in its opinion, but the “existence of this case supports that the issues presented in the [Reaume] matter are of increasing importance and commonality in Michigan, and that the bench and bar would benefit from the certainty that a published opinion would bring.”

Short-term rentals in residential areas is an issue that reached the Legislature in April 2017 when Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Lambertville) and Sen. Joe Hune (R-Hamburg Twp.) introduced  HB 4503 and  SB 0329, respectively, that proposed mandating all residential zones allow short-term rentals. Both were referred to committees where they stalled (See “MLTB: Leave Short-Term Rentals Under Control Of Local Governments,” 10/4/17; “Short-Term Vacation Rentals Pit Locals, Property Owners,” 4/28/17).

In January, Sheppard introduced  HB 4046, which limits regulation of vacation rentals and short-term rentals by local zoning. The proposed bill has been referred to the Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance (See “Realtors, Municipals Go Toe-to-Toe Over AirBNB Rental Zoning,” 5/1/19).

Judges Elizabeth Gleicher and Colleen O’Brien joined the opinion.


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