SOUTH PORTLAND — Short-term rental operators who don’t live on the premises can expect to have a grace period before the city moves to shut them down in September.

The City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to sweeping regulations of home rentals offered on websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway. Operators who don’t meet the letter of the law would be allowed to honor reservations made by Feb. 6 for home stays through Sept. 15.

“After that, it’s time for Plan B,” Councilor Claude Morgan said Wednesday.

The council’s vote was unanimous. A final vote is scheduled for Feb. 20.

City officials hope to stop people from buying, renovating and renting out entire homes to transient guests in a community that’s trying to increase affordable housing and preserve residential neighborhoods.

There are 282 short-term rentals in South Portland, according to a recent count by Host Compliance, a third-party web service. About 200 of them are single-family homes that are not owner-occupied, allowing travelers to rent a whole house or apartment for a few days or a few weeks.

The proposed ordinance would allow owner-occupied or “hosted home stays” throughout the city, but it would ban from all residential zones any “non-hosted home stays” that don’t have an owner on the premises.

The ordinance is also written to protect residential neighborhoods “from the nuisance impacts that are often associated with short-term rentals” and “to prevent long-term rentals from being replaced with short-term rentals.”

All short-term rentals would have to be registered, inspected, insured and subject to fines and possible closure if they didn’t follow the rules. Fines would range from $500 to $1,500 per day, depending on the violation.

Operators of hosted home stays would have to prove it’s their primary residence by showing they receive the Homestead Exemption on their property taxes.

Following other fine-tuning Tuesday, homeowners who live in one- to four-unit properties would be able to rent out one room or apartment and host a maximum of two adult guests and a child under age 2, Morgan said. Homeowners with multiple units would be required to notify potential tenants if one of the apartments were used for short-term rentals, he said.

When registering with the city clerk, operators also would have to show proof of property and liability insurance, sketch plans for parking and building layout, a completed self-inspection checklist and emergency contact information, among other requirements.

If the regulations are approved, legal rentals would have to register by April 15 and operate under the new ordinance starting June 1.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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