Nick McWilliams reporting – With over 220 homes, apartments, and more utilized for Airbnb and VRBO rentals in Tuscarawas County, the county seat is looking at ways of addressing safety concerns.

New Philadelphia council members met with Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Dee Grossman to discuss the rise in popularity of the rental of personal homes for short and long-term stays.

She says that while tens of thousands of dollars are lost due to not charging lodging tax on the dwellings, the main concern is the lack of safety certification required to operate that type of lodging.

“I do want to be very clear. It is about the safety of our visitors. I do not want to end up like North Carolina. North Carolina had a family from Canton go down to one of their Airbnbs. The son, a four-year-old, went into the elevator, and it hadn’t been inspected. And he was killed in the elevator.”

She did know a specific number of Airbnbs and VRBOs within city limits, but said that 5,396 overnight stays with an average room rental of $186, with over $30,000 that would come from lodging tax, in the 44663 zip code.

Council agreed on the notion of some type of regulation, given a recent incident involving an AirBnB outside Ragersville and a large party, leading to a sheriff’s deputy being injured.

Service Director Ron McAbier said that while they should look into potential legislation, registration, or other forms of oversight, addressing the issue can become tricky with searching rentals for the number of inhabitants, something also noted by Law Director Marvin Fete.

“Service department or a designee, we go to the place they’re talking about and there are, let’s say, 17 people in there. And they just say they’re just there, having a party. We’ll see you in court. Where [are] we at [with that?]”

“We’d have to prove that they’re living there, or residing there.”

“How are you going to do that?”

“I’m going to need proof, like if they receive mail there. Something along those lines. Maybe a copy of a bill.” 

The discussion on the topic was lengthy, with no formal action taken.

Law Director Marvin Fete was asked to look deeper into the subject, and future legislative proposals are expected.

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