Can I rent my house to someone or can’t I?

Back on March 4, 2015, I posted about a case involving Cedarburg where an appeals court held that a use of a single family dwelling in a residential zoning district which restricted uses to single family dwellings (and some other uses not pertinent to this post) did not prevent the owner from renting it out as a short term rental.  The appeals court in that case held that if the zoning code was silent on such restrictions of short term rentals, that the owner could use the house for short term rentals.

In a recent case, Accola vs. Vilas County, the appeals court held that a single family dwelling in the residential district could not be used for short term rentals.

So, in Cedarburg, single family dwellings in the residential district can be used as short term rentals.  In Vilas County they cannot. Why the different holdings?  Any seeming contradiction is merely superficial.  What both courts said is that you have to look carefully at the words of the zoning ordinance.  What does it say?  If it unambiguously restricts short term rentals, that is okay.  But if it is silent on that issue, then it does not restrict.  But be careful, the words of the ordinance are what matter – different words may give us a different result.

So the result in any given case will depend on the facts of that case and the words of that ordinance, not a broad (and likely false) generalization based on the factual results from a different case.

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