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Superior to require licenses for short-term rentals

The new license requirement for dwellings used for lodging guests goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The city of Superior will start requiring properties used for short-term rentals to be licensed starting Jan. 1, 2023.

The Superior City Council adopted an ordinance to create the licensing requirement for properties rented for a fee for fewer than 30 consecutive days as defined by state law at its meeting Tuesday, June 21.

“What this will do is put everyone on a level playing field,” Councilor Brent Fennessey said.

The license is similar to those hotels, motels and rooming houses in Superior are required to have and would give the city a better picture of how many short-term rentals are in the city.

Short-term rentals, like hotels and motels, are required to collect and pay a lodging tax to the city.

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Property owners have the option to acquire two different types of licenses. For those who rent a dwelling only seasonally, the license would cost $10 per month to cover the period when the property would be rented out. The annual license, which runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 and costs $50, would give property owners the option to rent on a short-term basis throughout the year. In addition, each license would require a $15 inspection fee to cover the inspection conducted by the county health department.

With a requirement that properties are inspected, Councilor Mark Johnson questioned whether that could create a backlog if there are many applicants.

The city’s license and fees committee decided not to cap the number of licenses that could be issued.

Mayor Jim Paine said there is the potential for an inspection backlog and that could prohibit people from renting a dwelling until the inspection is done.

“If they were not inspected, they are not licensed,” Paine said. “If they are not licensed, they cannot operate the business. That is the way I understand the ordinance.”

Short-term rental licenses are not transferable upon the sale or transfer of ownership of property and cannot be transferred to other locations.

Councilor Jack Sweeney asked how the city would ensure that people know they are required to have a license to operate a short-term rental in Superior.

“I don’t know how we get that out there to everybody,” Sweeney said.

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“The actual companies — Airbnb and VRBO — will not let you list on their websites if you’re not licensed and comply with all local laws,” Paine said. “So, we send this to them … you can’t use the major websites without complying.”

To apply for either license, people can contact the City Clerk’s Office. License applications and subsequent renewals for the annual license must be filed by Nov. 1 each year, or they are subject to late fees. For more information, call 715-395-7200 or email cityclerk@ci.superior.wi.us.

“The big push for this wasn’t to get as much money on the table as possible,” Fennessey said. “The other big benefit for doing this is the health department inspection that would be required through Douglas County. If someone is offering their home for a short-term rental, it’s done in a safe and healthy manner.”

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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