Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 22, 2017

MS Court of Appeals Holds Short-Term Vacation Rentals were not a Permitted Use

Plaintiffs Tom Bostick and Larry Poe, owners of houses in a residential subdivision in DeSoto County, began offering their houses for short-term rent to transient guests on HomeAway.com and other websites. Their neighbors complained about wild parties, loud music, and out-of-state vehicles coming and going at the houses. DeSoto County argued that these rentals were not a permitted use under applicable DeSoto County Zoning Regulations, which permitted, as relevant in this case, “single family dwellings.” The DeSoto County Chancery Court agreed and permanently enjoined Bostick and Poe from offering their houses as “vacation rentals” to short-term, transient renters. On appeal, Bostick and Poe argued that the Chancery Court misinterpreted the applicable regulations.

In its argument, the County focused primarily on the general definition of “dwelling,” in the DeSoto County Zoning Regulations: contending that transient, short-term renters do not use the houses as a “residence,” as contemplated by the definition. The County also argued that the houses had been put to a “hotel-like use,” which excluded them from the definition, and was contrary to their permitted use as “single family dwellings.”

The court found that although the houses lack some common, recognizable features of most hotels, the County reasonably concluded that they were being used as hotels. Furthermore, given that the definition of a dwelling specifically excluded “a room in a hotel,” the court found it not unreasonable for the County to apply the exclusion to a property being used as a hotel. Lastly, because Bostick and Poe rented their houses for occupancies by a succession of short-term, transient renters, the court held that this use was inconsistent with the definition of a “single family dwelling.” Accordingly, the judgment and permanent injunction entered by the chancery court enjoining Bostick and Poe from renting their homes as vacation rentals was affirmed.

Bostick v Desoto County, MS, 2017 WL 1910098 (MS App. 5/9/2017)


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