Council Debates Transient Rentals

     The city of Eagan is trying to decide how, or whether, to regulate homeowners who rent out their homes short-term through websites such as AirBnB.
     The issue turned discussion between the city’s mayor and its city council unusually tense as Mayor Mike Maguire suggested the city reconsider its current stance against such short-term rentals. Maguire, who typically takes a laissez-faire approach to regulating businesses in the city, suggested homeowners should be allowed to rent their homes, particularly with events such as the Super Bowl coming.
     Council members, particularly Councilmember Paul Bakken, urged caution, noting the Pandora’s Box that could be unleashed by allowing such rentals in the city.
     In addition to the difficulty of enforcing such rules, council members expressed concerns about the detrimental effects transient rentals could have upon the community. They noted the unfairness to the city’s hotels, which are regulated more heavily than homeowner rentals, and the potential of such rentals to make the city’s lack of affordable housing worse.
     Eagan currently prohibits residential rentals of less than 30 days. Rentals over 30 days must be registered with the city, which requires a background check and prohibits renting to felons.
     That registration requirement has sometimes been ignored or circumvented. For example, despite the rules against renting to felons, one Eagan property owner recently continued to rent property to a tenant after a child had been killed on the property and the father incarcerated for it. Even if property owners fail to register, a Minnesota appellate court recently ruled, landlords can still collect rent.
     The issue of transient rentals, those under 30 days, presents even more challenges since such renters would likely be unknown to neighbors and have no public records attached to their presence in the city.
     While the city does not allow residential rentals of less than 30 days, some Eagan homes are still listed as short-term rentals on such websites as AirBnB. Two such property owners appeared before the city council at a recent work session, a session outside the council’s regular meeting, to discuss their operations.
     Two women addressed the Eagan City Council in support of such rentals. Despite the city’s ban, the women admitted they had repeatedly rented homes on AirBnB. One claimed it was the only way she could save her home from foreclosure. The second bought a foreclosed property specifically for the purpose of renting it. She admitted she did not conduct background checks on the transient tenants, relying on AirBnB to do so. She said she did require photo identification from renters. The transient renters came from several different countries.
     Eagan is not the only community grappling with the impact of transient rentals. A 17-year-old in Ohio was shot at a party held at such a rental. When word of the party got out, 300 people showed up and the youth was shot by drive-by shooters, according to media reports. There are enough complaints about the transient rental website to support a derivative website published in several languages: http://www.airbnbhell.com.
     The city council concluded it wants to see more research on the issue, including comparisons of how other communities are handling the issue.
    

Elvis fans waited in line to have a photo taken with singer Steve Marshall at Market Fest Wednesday.

Fire Destroys Penkwe Way Home

     A home on Penkwe Way was severely damaged by a major house fire at about 8 p.m. Monday night.
     No injuries were reported. The blaze was caused by improper disposal of smoking materials, according to Eagan police.
     A witness reported he saw flames shooting from the building, 4635 Penkwe Way, from about ¼ mile away on Covington. He got into his car and followed the flames to discover a woman, who did not speak English, dousing the flames with water. The woman evacuated the building.
     The home is a quad, a four-unit dwelling. While much of the damage was limited to 4635 Penkwe, a home to the rear, 4633 Penkwe Way, sustained exterior damage.
     Eagan police, fire and ambulance responded to the scene.
     The burned building is across a driveway from 4637 Penkwe Way, the home formerly occupied by convicted child pornographer Anton Martynenko. Martynenko is seeking a reduction in his sentence for his assistance with prosecuting Daniel Heinrich, his former federal prison cellmate who admitted to killing Jacob Wetterling.
    
Eagan firefighters at the scene of a blaze that caused extensive damage to a home at 4635 Penkwe Way, Eagan.