Of the 100 who do so in Akron, only Octavian Maianu is no longer allowed to use his home for short-term rentals.

On six occasions since the Republican National Convention in July 2016, Maianu and his wife have made about $500 a night leasing their home at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in a family-oriented neighborhood near Portage Crossing and Portage Trail, just inside Akron city limits.

Then, this July, neighbors flooded City Hall with about 20 letters and emails objecting to Maianu’s use of his Cross Creek Trail home to supplement his income. The city’s zoning department likened the scenario to a hotel in a residentially zoned area.

So the city imposed a $100 administrative fine and ordered Maianu to stop. He responded in August with an application to reverse the order. After listening to the testimonies of a couple dozen angry and fearful neighbors, the City Council rejected Maianu’s request last week, ruling against a property owner outnumbered by his neighbors in a city with laws that predate concepts such as Airbnb.

“I just think it’s unfair, unethical and illegal,” said Maianu, who feels he’s been singled out and has hired an attorney. “My point is that it’s my house, and I can do what I want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone.”

The ruling against Maianu puts on notice anyone in Akron who uses a home for short-term rentals. If enough neighbors complain, the city will intervene.

On a more personal level, the case involves a feud that has been percolating with a neighbor for more than a year.

Next door, Gail Micsko looks out her window to take cellphone photos of cars with out-of-state license plates. She complains of strangers unloading pillows and suitcases.

“We don’t know who these people are,” she told the City Council last week.

Others neighbors said property values could suffer. Several recalled a teen who was shot in July during an out-of-control party at a house rented in Bath. “[I] worry it might happen right around the corner. I don’t feel comfortable to take my dog out for a walk or to be alone [in] the backyard because of all the strangers in the area,” Leigh Sumner, 18, wrote to her Councilman Rich Swirsky, in whose ward the disagreement sprouted.

“It’s just a lot of fear-mongering,” Maianu said.

Maianu, who is active in his church, has two kids and keeps a crib upstairs from the days when he and his wife fostered children. Before he stopped renting in July, he said he rejected 90 percent of applicants and accepted only families who agreed, in writing, not to have parties. In town for weddings, funerals or graduations, guests were asked to park in his driveway or garage. Never was there more traffic than a Friday night dinner party, he said.

Regulations vary

Even with a rise in the use of websites like Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), regulations on short-term rentals vary across Ohio, if they exist at all.

Most cities, like Akron, have yet to regulate the “sharing economy,” which includes peer-to-peer renting or sharing of everything from car rides and bicycles to office space and bedrooms.

Many have outlawed short-term rentals.

“We completely banned it,” said Chris Randles, Fairlawn’s building and zoning commissioner. “Basically anything [rented for] less than 30 continuous days is banned in Fairlawn.”

Fairlawn established the ban a couple of years ago. “The biggest issue was that it’s a commercial enterprise that council didn’t want in our residential districts,” said Randles, echoing the reason Akron officials gave.

The Cleveland City Council, ahead of the Republican National Convention, adopted a regulatory framework to limit the days a home can be occupied by anyone but the owner. The guidelines set rules to protect neighbors and levied a hotel occupancy tax, which is collected by the online companies that host the rental listings and handle cash transactions.

One year after Cleveland and Cuyahoga County agreed to let the company collect the 5.5 percent bed tax, Airbnb announced in June that it had remitted $544,000.

In Sandusky, commissioners voted earlier this year to limit “transient rentals” to certain zones within the city. A hotel tax and a $500 registration fee also apply. Flouting that law for a third time results in a $1,500 fine.

Akron regulation

The Maianu case has set the stage for action in Akron.

“We are looking to draft regulations that are simple and fair, preserve the residential character of neighborhoods and promote safety,” said Ellen Lander-Nischt, spokeswoman for Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan.

Zoning and planning staff are exploring how other cities govern short-term rentals. Eventually, Horrigan’s planning staff will present a plan to the City Council. Currently, city ordinances only cover rooming houses and hotels.

“No recommendations have been made yet as we continue to do research, Lander-Nischt said of striking a limited use policy. “And I would imagine this will take some time.”

The quicker Akron moves, the sooner it can be certain that it is not losing tax revenue.

Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit said his company makes hosts aware of their responsibility to pay all related taxes. The company informs them of local rates, but can’t guarantee or know whether the host is making those payments.

Though Maianu did most of his business on VRBO, which lists 16 rentals in or around Akron, Airbnb has a much more extensive local footprint.

“There are currently 80 Akron residents who actively share their homes on Airbnb,” said Breit, a public affairs agent for the Silicon Valley company. “The typical Akron Airbnb host earns $3,900 a year … through hosting. About 46 percent of Akron’s Airbnb listings are simply extra, unused rooms in a host’s full-time residence [i.e. empty nesters].”

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter or www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.