SOUTH PORTLAND — One recent weekend, busloads of bachelorettes, carrying drinks and teetering on high heels, came and went from bar-hopping forays in Portland’s Old Port.

Another time, it was a group of golf buddies, gathered around a backyard fire pit, drinking, shouting and cussing into the wee hours.

Seventeen years after buying her early 1900s two-family in a residential neighborhood near Bug Light Park, Patricia Morrison says she’s living a nightmare because short-term rentals have spread unchecked in South Portland. The City Council has heard her complaints and the concerns of other residents who see their neighborhoods under threat.

Morrison’s house is surrounded by four short-term rentals that are listed on and possibly other similar websites. She says they draw a steady flow of strangers to her end of Preble Street, just off Broadway, at the far edge of the popular Willard Beach neighborhood.

Two of the properties are whole-house, single-family rentals. One across the street appears to have an out-of-state owner who checks in guests via webcam, she says. The other, right next door, has nine beds and sleeps at least 15 people. The bachelorettes rented both houses, she says.

During the summer months, the partying went on all week long.


“It was a really bad summer,” Morrison said in describing some of the worst moments. “They know they’re coming into a residential neighborhood and they don’t care because they live in another state and they’re on vacation.”

South Portland is the latest community to tackle problems related to short-term rentals that are cropping up in residential neighborhoods and raising concerns among full-time residents. Short-term rentals are rooms or homes that are leased for a few days to a few weeks at a time.

The City Council will hold its third workshop on the topic on Monday, when councilors will consider banning or regulating various types of residence-based, short-term rentals across the city. Airbnb reports having 210 active listings in South Portland, with 10,800 inbound guests in the last year. There are 950 active listings in Portland and 7,700 statewide.

Cape Elizabeth approved a permitting process for short-term rentals in 2012 and Portland passed a more involved registration process in April. Scarborough has issued policy guidelines for short-term rentals based on existing ordinances.

Short-term rentals aren’t listed as permitted uses in South Portland’s residential zoning districts, but they aren’t explicitly prohibited, said Councilor Claude Morgan, who represents the Ferry Village and Willard Beach neighborhoods, where most of the city’s short-term rentals are located.

Councilors are leaning toward banning whole-house short-term rentals that aren’t owner-occupied, including condominiums and apartments; and requiring owner-occupied short-term rentals of one or two rooms to be registered, inspected, charged yearly licensing fees and fined for violations, Morgan said.


With owner-occupied short-term rentals, “the owner of the home has skin in the game,” Morgan said. “He or she understands the values of the neighborhood and feels a responsibility to preserve the stability and livability of the neighborhood.”


Whole houses, condos or apartments that are operated as short-term rentals are especially concerning because they remove single-family homes from a real estate market where city officials are struggling to create much-needed affordable housing, Morgan said.

And with short-term rentals going for $50 to $1,500 per night, not counting security deposits and cleaning fees, they’ve also helped to drive up home prices in the city’s eastern neighborhoods and put pressure on long-term rental prices. Both single-family short-term rentals near Morrison’s house were purchased, renovated and resold for nearly double the initial sale price, according to the city assessor’s records.

“If your intention is to operate the house as a little motel, you may be willing to spend more on the commodity because you intend to make a profit,” Morgan said. “If you look at the things that can erode a strong community, this is one of them. I do not believe having little hotels throughout residential neighborhoods is in the best interests of the permanent neighbors.”

Morgan acknowledged that some short-term rentals operate without disturbing their neighbors and many provide a source of income that helps people stay in their homes and make ends meet. That doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t permitted uses in residential zones, he said.


Short-term rental owners recently formed an association that submitted a proposal to the council that would put the association in charge of regulating its members. Its president, Peter Cooke, couldn’t be reached for comment.


Morrison, who lives near four short-term rentals, says the worst offender in her experience opened last year in a bungalow right next door. Newly renovated and finely appointed, it’s one of three whole-house, short-term rentals in the Willard area that are listed on Airbnb by Marilys Scheindel of Cape Elizabeth.

Her husband, Robert, bought 180 Preble St. in August 2016 for $506,000 – nearly double the $270,000 paid two years earlier by SoPo Cottage LLC, the company that renovated it, according to the city assessor’s records.

Short-term rentals, like those listed with Airbnb, have sprung up in the Willard Beach neighborhood of South Portland. Some are separate homes like this one on Preble Street. Airbnb’s 210 active listings in the city logged 10,800 guests in the last year.

Scheindel charges $325 a night for the nine-bed, 15-guest house, plus a $1,500 security deposit and a $295 cleaning fee. Scheindel’s other short-term rentals in the area sleep 12 to 13 people and seven to nine people; a photo on Airbnb shows one of them with two flaming fire pits on a rooftop deck.

Scheindel didn’t respond to a call for comment, but she did write a 10-page letter to the council explaining her situation in great detail.


Scheindel disputed Morrison’s claim that her guests at 180 Preble St. held loud parties all summer long. She said the average reservation was for eight people and multi-generational families. She recently lost an $1,800 reservation “by overemphasizing … the need for quietude,” she said.

Scheindel said people who live near her short-term rentals should be more understanding and respectful, suggesting that she hasn’t complained about the neighbor who revs his car engine at 7:15 every morning, or the compost bin next door that attracts flies, or the broken sofa on a front lawn, or the incessantly barking dog, or the clothesline full of bras and underwear.

“I don’t want my guests to see that as part of their vacation experience,”Scheindel said, “so what are my rights as a homeowner?”

Morrison is adamant about the rowdy guests at 180 Preble St. and she bristles at the idea that the Scheindels’ commercial investment in the Willard area equals her personal stake in the neighborhood she calls home.

“If this was happening next door to their house in Cape Elizabeth, they wouldn’t put up with it,” Morrison said. “Why do we have to put up with this here?”


CORRECTION: This story was updated at 4:52 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2017, to correct the spelling of Marilys Scheindel’s name. 

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