Things to Know Before Joining AirBNB

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The sharing economy is in its infancy in America, and around the world. People with time and assets are using them for their financial benefit. People with time and a vehicle are delivering clients via Uber, while people with property and an open bedroom are leasing it overnight to clients via AirBNB. It seems to be an easy way to make some extra money. Sometimes it’s money ‘on the side’, and sometimes it is a legitimate business. Either way there are expectations and liabilities that potential property owners should be aware of.

Many municipalities are struggling to react to the phenomenon of the sharing economy, especially with regard to AirBNB. Are they legitimate businesses? Should they be legitimate businesses? How can they be regulated? How can regulations be enforced? These questions, and many more, need to be addressed in small towns and big cities everywhere.

Most municipalities have zoning ordinances in place which define residential, commercial, and industrial zones and what can be done within these zones. Many neighborhoods are located in single family dwelling zones. Occupancy by more than a single family unit is prohibited by law. Separating a dwelling into multi family units or a commercial business requires permission from the local government that usually demands a public hearing. Neighbors within 300 feet, or more, are notified of the proposed zoning change for a special land use permit. The property owner, the neighbors, and the zoning board have a discussion to allow or disallow any changes.

Separating a single family home (or a multi-family home) into an AirBNB property is allowing a commercial operation in a residential zone. Neighbors are mostly concerned with traffic, parking, and activity. Regular bed and breakfast properties (B&Bs) have always needed a special land use permit to run that business in a residential zone. Permission is usually granted after improvements are made to make the home safe, neighborhood friendly, and compliant with building codes. Many AirBNB properties bypass the zoning board and just rent their spare rooms to overnight guests.

These are the main issues with AirBNB properties:

  • Parking
  • Absentee owners
  • Adequate water and sanitary sewer services
  • Electrical and safety standards
  • Bathing and lavatory facilities
  • Signage
  • Meals being served
  • Principle residence tax exemptions
  • Earned income
  • Collecting and reporting use tax
  • Appropriate homeowners insurance

Parking is a big issue in many neighborhoods. Neighboring property owners do not want their limited street parking spaces taken by non-residents, or otherwise clear streets crowded with curbside parking. To handle this, many cities require off-street parking for each rentable room, plus 2 spaces for the property owner. It is good to be a considerate neighbor.

Occasionally, tenants rent rooms (or whole houses) and throw big parties when the property owner is not present. This can create a nuisance in the neighborhood and could cause damage to the property. Owner occupancy while the property is leased is a good way to curtail any unauthorized use.

Many homes are not suited for the amount of water usage required by an unusual number of adults under one roof. Water flow, hot water availability, and sewer usage are legitimate concerns for home owners and their guests. An inspection for appropriate service is necessary and appropriate to avoid plumbing problems.

Many older homes have quirky electrical service, inadequate hand rails on staircases, and insufficient building code compliance. For the safety of guests, any non-conforming issues need to be identified by a professional, and corrected.

Many homes have just a bath and a half, or two full bathrooms. For the comfort of the home owner and the guests, separate and private bath facilities are expected. Properties without sufficient bathroom facilities are usually denied.

Appropriate signage is necessary to define the property being leased, while not being a nuisance to the neighbors. Strangers in a new town want to easily find the property they are renting, while the neighbors do not want to be bothered by travelers knocking on the wrong door. Additionally, local homeowners with their property for sale need to make potential buyers aware that there is a special use property in the neighborhood that may affect their decision to buy.

B&B means bed and breakfast. Breakfast may be served to overnight guests. Appropriate safe serving of food must be learned and practiced.

Be aware that valuable homestead tax credits may be lost if the home is not 100% residential.

Any income from overnight guests should be claimed. Know that the income will affect your property value and you will be taxed accordingly. Taking money ‘under the table’ when renting space on a nightly basis could subject the property owner to violations that could include fines and other repercussions.

Use tax needs to be collected and reported to the appropriate municipalities. That could include state, county, city, CVB, and other taxes. Collecting these taxes requires being assigned a federal tax identification number for reporting any income received and corresponding taxes due. Also note that any income acquired through a third party may be recorded with an annual 1099 income tax form. Additionally note that direct deposits may be recorded as income by your bank with an annual 1099 income tax form.

Homeowner must be aware that their regular insurance may not cover paying guests. Commercial liability insurance may be required to cover tenants temporarily living in your home. An appropriate amount of insurance for slips and falls, and unforeseen mishaps may be suggested or required.

These are the main issues that any property operating as a B&B needs to be aware of. AirBNBs and other nightly or vacation rental properties do not always think about the requirements involved in becoming a legitimate commercial business in a residential zone. They also may not be aware of the tax implications–both collecting and reporting. It is best to know your responsibilities before a surprise comes from your local government, law enforcement agency, or tax service.

 

Published in: on April 22, 2016 at 12:07 am  Comments (1)  
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How to Make Jam the Easy Way

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Good jam starts with good fruit. I offer fruit for breakfast every morning at Munro House and always have some left over. I combine the leftovers in storage bags and freeze them until I am in a jammin’ mood. My fruit selection is mostly grapes (red, green, and black) along with strawberries and pineapple. I have smaller quantities of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and kiwi. Then I thaw the mixture and put it into a bowl where my Ninja chops it all up to a thick liquid. I save it all in another storage container until I am ready to cook. Here is where it gets easy. I have a Sunbeam brand bread maker. It has a jam setting. I put 12.5 ounces of pureed fruit into the bread maker and add a cup of sugar, a tablespoon of pectin, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. I hit the jam setting and come back in an hour and 5 minutes. Then I pour the liquid into jelly jars and wait for it to cool. Done. It’s a long process to make large quantities of jam, but the method is simple and the finished product is outstanding.

Published in: on May 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm  Comments (1)  
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Michigan Innkeeper’s Meeting in Alma

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A group of innkeepers from the Michigan Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Association got together for a pizza social at Saravilla Bed and Breakfast in Alma Michigan.  Saravillla is a great place to hold a meeting as they have an abundance of common area for large indoor gatherings. Innkeepers from a one hour radius were invited to join the association’s board of directors for a fun evening. An exchange of ideas, sharing of experiences, and a lot of shop talk was on the agenda. This type of event is held quarterly at locations throughout Michigan.

Michigan B&B Spa Day in Jonesville

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A spa day at a Michigan B&B was enjoyed by 6 women at the Munro House in Jonesville. Their getaway was planned with a single phone call. The package was booked and the Munro House took care of all the details. 2 dinners and a lunch plus a manicure, pedicure, facial, and massage for each lady, along with 2 nights bed and breakfast was scheduled. All the girls had to do was show up. The agenda was set. All of the details were covered, and the ladies had a very good time.

All Inclusive Wedding in Michigan for $1,000

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The all-inclusive Thousand Dollar Wedding© is available every day at the Munro House B&B in Jonesville MI. For $1,000, the wedding couple gets the location, the wedding officiant, flowers for the bride and groom, a custom wedding cake, a cake reception for up to 20 guests, and 2 nights bed and breakfast in any available room for the newlyweds.  The $1,000 wedding at Munro House does not require an affiliation with any church, and is preferred over waiting in line with criminals and litigants at the court house. The entire wedding can be arranged and confirmed in a single phone call 1-800-320-3792 or a personal visit to Munro House B&B in Jonesville. The package is ideal for 1st, 2nd, 3rd weddings or renewal of vows. The price is right and all the details are covered. Hors d’oeuvers are also available for an additional charge.

Published in: on February 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thousand Dollar Wedding on Valentine’s Day in Michigan

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Another $1,000 Wedding was held at Munro House B&B in Jonesville MI on  Valentine’s Day. The typical package includes location, flowers, officiant, cake, reception for 20 people, plus 2 nights bed and breakfast for the wedding couple. The entire event can be planned, scheduled, and finalized in a single phone call. Some couples who are unaffiliated with a church end up waiting in line at the courthouse in the presence of other couples, convicts, and litigants on Valentine’s Day, or any other day. The Munro House offers a private, elegant, and affordable option for second time weddings, elopements, or young couples on a budget. The Thousand Dollar Wedding© at Munro House just might be the option many couples are seeking.

2011 Veterans Day in Jonesville MI

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Military Holidays are a big deal in Jonesville Michigan. Veterans Day 2011 marked the rededication of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Memorial in Carl Fast Park. Over 600 people were in attendance from this village of 2,400.  The G.A.R. Statue was erected in 1912 and honored soldiers from the American Civil War. The Jonesville American Legion funded a project to reposition the statue on a new stone base and flank it with a new American Flag display. The rededication was attended by local students, village residents, and guests of the Munro House B&B. The Munro House gave away all its rooms for free to Veterans and current Active Duty Military personnel as a “thank you” for their service. The international B&Bs for Vets program was very well-received at this Michigan B&B.

Published in: on November 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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Michigan Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Conference

The Michigan Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Association held its annual B&B conference in Muskegon Michigan. Vendors, industry leaders, and scores of innkeepers were in attendance for the 3 day event. Conference topics included google analytics, facebook, hospitality, laundry, the state of the industry, B&Bs for Vets program, Asian Carp threat, breakfast, and food photography.

Slideshow chronicles Business Meeting, Networking, Better Way to Stay Campaign,  Food Photography, Harbor View

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Published in: on October 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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The PAII Bed and Breakfast Conference and Convention

There is an annual convention for innkeepers being held in Atlanta this Spring.  The group is called PAII, the Professional Association of Innkeepers International. It is a chance to see current industry trends, gather ideas, and see what’s new in the hospitality business, along with opportunities to learn new ways to effectively promote and market our individual businesses.

I went to the PAII conference in Phoenix a few years back and came back refreshed, invigorated, and full of ideas.  Much of the information was on marketing–internet presence, search engine optimization, web design, etc.  Some of the classes were the day-to-day stuff–recipes, cooking techniques, energy efficiency, etc.  A few sessions were about staying healthy–making time for yourself, relaxation techniques, exercise routines, etc.  Every day has key note speakers who address the innovations that small properties, like B&Bs, contribute to the big picture of the hospitality industry.

It means taking time off from being self employed.  It means spending money to make money.  It means that we are never too old to learn something new.  I found the sessions to be very enriching.  I came away with a plethora of ideas to enhance and improve my business.  I met many people who could relate to the things an innkeeper goes through on a regular basis.

These conventions seem to be pretty pricey, but taking the ideas and making minor changes to the way you do business can pay for the price of the show.  Major changes to the way you do business can make (or save) big bucks.

I run a 7 room inn in Jonesville Michigan called the Munro House.  I hope to mix a little pleasure with business this month that will positively affect my bottom line over the course of the year at my bed and breakfast.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Plaid Pajamas – Michigan Bed and Breakfast Guests

Most folks come to the Munro House Bed and Breakfast in Jonesville, Michigan, for a leisurely romantic weekend.  Some people come here on business to enjoy our homey atmosphere.  But Cheryl’s family came here to bury her dad.

 

It was an occasion that is dreaded by everyone, a funeral.  The grandmother came back to North Adams from South Carolina to lay her husband to rest in the family plot.  She was joined by her two daughters and a granddaughter.  It was a solemn return to Hillsdale County for all of them.

 

After dinner on the night of the funeral, my wife, Lori, was walking down the hall to our quarters.  As she passed one of their guest rooms, she noticed the door was ajar.  She glanced through the opening to see all of them just sitting there, staring at the floor.  The fireplace was warming them, but the only sound to be heard was sniffling and whimpering.  Obviously, it was going to be a very long, somber evening.  That’s when Lori noticed they were all wearing different colored plaid pajamas.  She immediately went to her room and changed into her plaid pajamas, too.  She went downstairs, made a pot of tea, and brought along skewers and marshmallows.

 

She knocked, entered the room, poured the tea, and passed out the marshmallows.  What a sight to behold:  five women sitting around a fireplace, drinking tea, and roasting marshmallows in their plaid pajamas.  Within a few minutes, they were all on their second marshmallow.  The warm gooey mess made everyone smile.  The sadness turned to cheerful reminiscing about the good old days when their loved one was still alive. 

 

plaid-pajamas-016_9aAbout this time I walked by the open door and saw these funeral attendees with my wife.  They were laughing, telling stories, and having a good time.  Lori shooed me out of the room and said I wasn’t allowed to join them unless I was wearing plaid pajamas, too.  I went to my room, searched through my dresser, found the required garments, changed, and joined the group of marshmallow roasters.

 

The saddest of days turned into an evening full of laughing and sharing.  The grandmother had tears in her eyes.  She turned to Lori and said “I haven’t roasted marshmallows with my girls in a long time.  This is like it was 30 years ago. Thank you.”  We hugged and went back to our special roast in front of the fire in the guest room at the end of the hall.

 

When they checked out, we looked to see if they wrote in the journals that are in our guest rooms.  Yes, they did and it said “We had a good time despite the sadness of the occasion. It ended up being more of a family reunion.  We picked the right place to stay.” 

 

One year later, the daughter and mother came to stay again at our B&B.  The thing they enjoyed talking about most, was roasting marshmallows in their pajamas.  We had helped them get through a very difficult time.  They remember it as an evening of celebration at a time of incredible loss.  We remember it as another day we did our job to make people feel comfortable in our house.  Now, every time we see plaid pajamas, we smile and think about marshmallows.