Fire Inspection & Re-Inspection Fees For Short-Term Rentals Increased
Acting on a previously tabled matter, Saugatuck city officials Monday night instituted an increase to fees it charges owners of vacation short-term rentals for fire inspection registration, from $45 to $250 (three-year registration), as well as re-inspections, from $30 to $60.
Safety inspections and fire code approvals are conducted by the Saugatuck Township Fire District (i.e. smoke detectors, proper windows, adequate exit accessibility, etc.) and are mandated before a rental permit can be issued. The increase is not retroactive, so it will not affect those owners that already hold a rental permit. Re-inspection fees are triggered when owners fail to pass the initial inspection and the fire department has to return for a second or more inspections.
The change doesn’t impact B&Bs because they operate under a different set of guidelines. Meanwhile, the city currently doesn’t regulate Airbnb, the international online service allowing people to rent or find vacation rental spaces.
“The City of Douglas passed the exact same schedule of fee adjustment as well as Saugatuck Township,” said Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier about recent action taken by those two municipalities.
However, local B&B owner Mark Klungle took issue with the hike.
“The State of Michigan says it has to be reasonable,” said Klungle, alluding to the Michigan Supreme Court ruling of 1998 in Bolt v City of Lansing, in which the court established that any city fees must be proportionate to the costs of service and not serve as a revenue-raising procedure.
“What is reasonable? And how much does it cost us as a city?” asked Klungle, who also pointed out, “There is not a re-inspection fee in our ordinance or re-inspection fees in schedule of fees (list of fixed fees for goods or services) at this point.”
In response to his concerns, Saugatuck City Council Member Barry Johnson noted, “The key component here is that we are not trying to make money; it moves the program (the previous fire inspection costs and administrative services associated with it) closer to self-sufficiency.”
City officials say current shortfalls for the program are paid through general fund monies.
As to Klungle’s other point, Harrier said, “You don’t set your schedule of fees in your zoning ordinances; you do address permits in your ordinances.
“The reason you don’t have your schedule of fees in your ordinance is that schedule of fees change from time to time—you would have to amend your ordinance every single time you change your fees.”
City staff modified its original proposed schedule of fees (first presented at the June 13 meeting), eliminating the failure to register fee of $250.
That action occurred following expressed misgivings by Saugatuck City Council Member Mark Bekken that the $250 charge would need to be justified only after the city had first established definitive rules and a chronological process to enforce it.