Short-term rental ban enforcement varies in lower Litchfield County
Towns in lower Litchfield County have taken different approaches to enforcing the state’s temporary ban on short-term renting in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In an effort to prevent unnecessary travel and slow the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order March 10, prohibiting nonessential short-term lodging during the pandemic.
The executive order applies to hotels, timeshares and other types of lodging, including Airbnb, VRBO and other properties rented for 31 or fewer days.
The order has the effect of state law and its enforcement falls on municipalities.
The town of New Milford has taken a proactive approach to enforcing the executive order, but smaller towns in lower Litchfield County have been more laid-back.
New Milford Mayor Pete Bass signed an emergency order March 27, suspending Airbnb-type lodging within New Milford’s border until June 16.
Eleven days later, the police department opened an investigation into short-term, nonessential lodging in town.
“The focus of our work was to identify short-rental properties in New Milford and educate the owners as to the emergency orders in effect,” said Lt. Lee Grabner.
The police department identified 15 properties listed on various vacation rental websites, he said, and contacted each owner.
“Compliance was later verified on each website that the property was blocked from being rented,” Grabner said.
As of last Tuesday, he said here had been no reported violations of the short-term rental ban in town.
“Everyone has been cooperative in working together to meet the requirements of the emergency orders,” Grabner said.
“We don’t enforce this directive unless violations are brought to our attention,” First Selectman Curtis Read said.
He said the one VRBO rental and one bed-and-breakfast he knows of in Bridgewater have been following the governor’s order since inception are “self-regulating.”
First Selectman Barbara Henry said a lot of rentals in her town were occupied before the ban was put in place, and people are still in them.
“I’ve heard of residents who are renting their homes to family members from out of state, but to say we know exactly every situation? No, that is not the case,” Henry said.
“I don’t know of anyone getting caught violating the executive order,” she said.
First Selectman Jim Brinton said real estate agents, as well as part-time and rental residents in his town have been “very cooperative in following the guidelines put in place.”
The town of Kent is “depending on any resident who provides short-term rentals to follow the rules,” said the town’s land use administrator, Donna Hayes.
Hayes said she was not aware of any violations in town as of Thursday.