Apartment Converts Two Floors to Airbnb and Former Tenant Takes on Loophole in City Ordinance
Two years ago, the Lowry Apartments in downtown St. Paul issued notices of non-renewal to all tenants on the ninth and tenth floors of the apartment building in an effort to offer short-term rentals instead. Although it seemed to directly violate St. Paul’s short-term rental ordinance, property owner Jim Cockarell managed to get around the ordinance by registering the property as a hotel.
Under the St. Paul short-term rental ordinance, St. Paul apartments cannot list more than four units on short-term rental platforms. However, in 2013 the state of Minnesota took over hotel licensing rather than leaving it to the city. St. Paul learned that Cockarell had gone to the state of Minnesota and had Lowry Apartments licensed as a hotel, allowing the apartment complex to lease as many units as it would like.
As a result of this loophole in St. Paul’s city ordinances, and in an effort to tighten rules around situations such as the one with Lowry Apartments, St. Paul has officially defined a hotel. A hotel is now defined as “a commercial establishment offering to the public daily, five or more individual sleeping room accommodations available for reservation on a walk-in basis, with a resident proprietor or on-site manager, an identifiable main entrance and lobby, a staffed desk or office for the registration of guests, staff to provide daily housekeeping services, and exterior signage identifying the establishment as a hotel.”
According to Jim Cockarell and Rebecca Noecker, a St. Paul City Councilwoman, Lowry Apartments does fit the new definition and will not face any repercussions for operating the building in this manner. In fact, Cockarell hopes to convert about 50 more units into short-term rentals in the near future.
While the Lowry Apartments are in the clear, St. Paul city council hopes that tighter rules will prevent future buildings from becoming hotels through short-term rental sites such as Airbnb.