Want to rent out your pool? Montgomery County proposes entering short term rental economy

Councilmember Will Jawando introduced legislation earlier this week that would enter Montgomery County into the short term rental, gig economy, meaning residents could rent out spaces like their home pools or gyms.

Bill 6-23; Housing – Sharing Economy Rental seeks to regulate homeowners being able to their private spaces, something we saw explode earlier in the pandemic, with homeowners renting their home spaces, including pools and Jacuzzis. 

"This bill presents us an opportunity to [kind-of] expand the sharing economy here in Montgomery County. There are a lot of new, innovative companies out there that uh, such as ‘Simply’ and ‘Bark,’ which allow for residents to share in an entrepreneurial way, use spaces at home for limited periods of time: walking dogs swimming in a swimming pool, having a party, home gyms, in home music -- if you want to work on a garage to fix a car because you have a small business. This legislation would authorize, regulate and tax these rentals of residential property," said Councilmember Will Jawando, introducing the bill.

FOX 5 spoke with an expert in 2020 who explained how with an Airbnb, a homeowner renting a house or an apartment could make $100 to a few hundred dollars a night. However, renting a space like your pool, with multiple hours in a day, homeowners could be making thousands of dollars a week. 

"Swimply" is one of two companies Councilmember Will Jawando referenced when he introduced the bill. You can search online see the many homes throughout Montgomery County already signed-up let strangers book and take a dip. 

The problem is technically, this is not legal. This is an unregulated market. 

Jawando introduced would create the county infrastructure to now regulate this short term rental businesses. That means, homeowners will have go through a permitting and licensing process. 

FOX 5 is told homeowners would also now have to pay an admissions and amusement tax of 7% and likely pay income tax as well.

Other stipulations include limiting the number of guests to 6 people. The number of rental days allowed throughout the year would be limited to 120 and the rental hours would be limited to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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The county executive’s office would have to create the application process and handle licensing fees, so it’s not clear yet how much that process could also cost. However, homeowners would be required to renew their license every year.

"I think it’s a very strange thing," said Lisa Hamburger, who told FOX 5 she’d never heard of people renting like this and doesn’t understand why some would choose to do so now.

"My concern would be what happens if somebody gets hurt? What’s the liability for the home owner?" she added.

FOX 5 connected with someone who uses a backyard rental app for dogs meet-ups. That person described having to sign a waiver that clearly states the host is not responsible for guests or animals.

Right now, FOX 5 is told the county’s department of permitting services will investigate a rental complaint and can issue a fine if necessary. The county health department regulates pools and is tasked with investigating those complaints.

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Jawando’s bill is looking to have the health department to regulate all of the short term rentals that would fall under his bill. This could also change with a new bill the county executive is looking to introduce, impacting the county’s private rentals.

Some councilmembers noted the safety a bill like this would help provide. Another noted the added revenue this will also bring to the county. FOX 5 was not able to immediately speak with someone who already rents out their space to find out whether they welcome the county’s change.

A public hearing on this is scheduled to take place at 1:30 on March 7th.