Last Friday night, the usually quiet cul-de-sac that is Scovell Terrace was rockin’. One of the houses was having a house party, but there was something odd about this party.
According to neighbors, the street was hopping with cars parked and party goers being dropped off and picked up by Uber and Lyft. The house at 11909 Scovell Terrace was packed with party goers. The house, like many on the short dead-end situated just off Waring Station Road, is a lovely single-family home with pretty green shutters and an inviting double-wide entry door.
Neighbors have known that the house was for sale and vacant, so the idea that a party was happening in the house surprised them. Round about midnight as the party and the traffic continued somebody called the police to have them investigate.
According to MCPD spokesman Officer Rick Goodale, 5th District officers were called to the residence shortly after midnight on Saturday, Aug. 25. When officers arrived, they contacted the owner of the house, Shamara Patterson, who was not at the party. The owner told police that she believed that a family had rented the house. She gave officers permission to enter the house and break up the party. The officers had to wade through the mass of humanity to locate the person throwing the party, who told them that he rented the house through Airbnb.
Police said that partygoers were mostly well behaved and no arrests were made, as they departed the area in an orderly fashion. However, Goodale said that Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service was called to the scene to transport an unidentified 19-year-old female who was overly intoxicated. Goodale said police are continuing to investigate the incident, but no criminal charges have been filed.
The house is indeed listed on Airbnb, as a “Beautiful home in Germantown (no furniture).” The four-bedroom home, with 2.5 baths can be rented for $275 per night, and according to the Airbnb listing up to 10 guests can stay in the house. The contact on the listing, Shamara Patterson, writes, “My home is completely empty with no furniture because we have moved out.” The house also comes with a $150 cleaning fee.
The listing also says under the House Rules section that no parties or events are allowed. The listing reads, “NO SMOKING IN GARAGE NO SMOKING IN HOME - This includes no weed/cigars/cigarettes/drugs etc. - No loitering or littering in front of the home or street. Home sits on a cul-de-sac. Neighbors will call me or police. If I am called by someone in the neighborhood because of disturbance, you will be asked to leave immediately or removed by police. Zero tolerance policy for disturbing the peace of the community. Home is to be left as found.” However, the incident brings up an interesting question for residents. Can a residential house on a quiet street be rented for a one-night house party, or any other short-term rentals resulting in increased traffic and strangers in the neighborhood on a regular basis?
In October of 2017, the Montgomery County Council approved legislation that created a legal framework and regulations for short-term residential services like Airbnb in the County. The legislation became effective on July 1, 2018.
The bill, ZTA 17-03, made bed and breakfasts a limited use in most residential and mixed-use zones. It limited the total number of adult overnight guests in a short-term rental to six, limited the total number of adult overnight guests per bedroom to two, and required one off-street parking space for each rental contract. These measures addressed concerns about the potential for residential housing to be used exclusively as a short-term rental service.
According to the ordinance, the dwelling unit used as a short-term rental must be the property owner’s or owner-authorized resident’s primary residence, and if the property owner or owner-authorized resident is not present in the residence, the property can be used as a short-term residential rental for a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year.
Short-term rentals in the County are legal but require the owner to be licensed. “To rent your house out for one or two nights you need a short-term residential rental license,” said Clark Beil, a senior administrator with the County’s Licensure and Regulatory Services division of the Department of Health and Human Services in an email to Germantown Pulse. He said short-term rentals must also “comply with all the requirements, such as you are limited to six adult guests. A bed and breakfast is different. A B&B is your home and you are present when your guests are there. A short-term rental is slightly different in that it likewise must be your primary residence, but you don't have to be present when renting it out.”
Currently, the County’s Zoning Ordinance does not allow for short-term residential rentals of less than one month, unless the home has been approved for use as a Bed and Breakfast. Bed and Breakfasts are only allowed in detached houses, and they are subject to specific standards.
According to Beil, the Scovell Terrace house does not have a short-term rental license, and his office would be issuing a cease and desist order to the owner.
There are currently 77 locations in Montgomery County which have been approved to hold short-term rental licenses, of those three are in Germantown, and one is in Clarksburg, according to Beil.
Airbnb currently has more than 150 listings for rentals in the Germantown area for single nights, many seem to meet the requirements for renting a room, and however, there are 28 entries which rent the entire house or townhouse at prices ranging from $50 to $275 per night.
File Photo by Germantown Pulse. Other photos from Airbnb.com