While Evanston tries to prosecute a homeowner for offering her house for short-term rental, the concept appears to be spreading elsewhere.

AnnArbor.com Sunday reported the arrival there of a service called Rent Like a Champion, which focuses on weekend rentals of private homes in college towns, especially for football game weekends.

The business, founded by Notre Dame graduates, already operates in South Bend.

Evanston homeowner Olufemi Davies recently obtained a temporary restraining order blocking the city from prosecuting her — pending a hearing before the city’s Zoning board of Appeals later this month.

As reported by the Evanston RoundTable, Davies alleges that the city had no legal basis for claims she was operating a rooming house or lodging establishment in violation of the city’s zoning code.

Davies’ attorney, Jeff Smith, told the paper Davies is simply renting out her own home at 1525 Dobson St. “something that right now, every homeowner in Evanston has the right to do.”

The city reportedly took action against Davies after some neighbors complained to their alderman about noisy guests at the home.

Davies property, described as “a cozy ranch house” in its online listing, isn’t the only Evanston listing available on rental sites.

Others include a historic mansion near Northwestern and the lake, listed for $4,000 a week, and a one-bedroom apartment for $150 a night.

Top: The house at 1525 Dobson St. that’s the subject of the dispute over short-term rentals.

Short-term home rentals in Evanston are …

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Short-term rentals — Necessity?

    Maybe Ms. Davies is trying to make extra money to pay the extraordinary taxes required to own property in Evanston.

    Brian G. Becharas

    1. Ordinances like this are

      Ordinances like this are usually driven by fear of the unknown.  Folks renting a temporary residence near a college are typically bound by a rental agreement and have paid a security deposit, and are therefore pretty respectful. 

      Another thing I would mention of relevance is that the IRS permits homeowners to rent out a primary residence for up to 14 days per year without paying taxes on the rents received.

      1. How about 350 days per year?

        I am very familiar with the home at 1525 Dobson Street. Unfortunately, the homeowner no longer occupies the house and rents it out as many nights/week as they can to different individuals. This, therefore, is not a "home swap" but a lodging establishment with no on-site staff or regulation. The renters have been very disturbing to the neighborhood and the police consider the home a nuisance. There is a reason we have zoning.

  2. I see no problem with this

    I see no problem with this idea.  People who are using the website "Airbnb" collect a security and pay a small fee to the website.  Many residents have to make ends meet with our economy the way it is. Leave these homeowners alone. 

  3. Sounds like more mistreatment of Evanston property owners

    The way I see it, Davies is simply renting out her home with short term leases.

    I know of Northwestern professors who rent out their homes for a year while they are away and I don't think they asked  the city for permission. There are many Evanstonians who rent out their homes and don't notify the city.

    I also know people who advertise on couchsurfing.org and bring people from around the world to sleep on their couch for a short period.

    Ms. Davies went as far as to fill out a rental application and was accepted, yet the city forced one of her short-term tenants out and placed a sign on her front lawn that said the homeowner was cited for "operating an illegal lodging establishment" and warned that the property was being "monitored by police."

    Maybe there is more to this story, but this is no way to treat Evanston property owners. Remember the landlord blacklist Evanston officials passed around and then it turned out the alledged code violations were false?

    Soon, the City Council will vote on a rental license, requiring all property owners who want to rent their properties to obtain an annual license to rent. It would be subject to a fee, inspections, and any tenant problems could involve the city manager. 

    Imagine the newly hired unionized army of city inspectors that would enforce such an overreaching ordinance.

    Time for change.

  4. Attitude of neighbors resistant to change

    I live in this block, and I'm ashamed to admit that I did not notice a sign in front of 1525 Dobson, nor did I know about the controversy surrounding how this property is rented. However, having lived on the block for over 20 years, I can tell you that some of the property owners in this block are very resistant to change.

    If left to them, this block would rent/sell to whites only. I say this without even knowing the race or ethnicity of the parties involved. I just know the attitude of some of my neighbors, the ones on a first-name basis with the alderman of the ward.

    I would be skeptical of any of their complaints about short-term rentals, because I wouldn't be able to tell the legitimate ones from the racist ones. 

    1. Very short-term rentals

      I think some people who say it is fine to have homes rented BY THE DAY or weekend, or any such short period of time, are not considering what it would be like if the house next door to them had this very short-term rental arrangement.  I don't see how this is a racial issue. Having a constant stream of extremely short term rentals with no owner present to deal with problems that might arise could be very stressful to the people who live next door, whether the renters were of the same or different race or ehnicity as neighboring homeowners, and no matter what predominant race/ethnicity of a neighborhood might be.   

      1. Nothing short of harrassment

        The reaction by the City to this situation is nothing short of harrassment.  As far as the comment about I don't understand the comment that living next door to a "short term rental" property could be that different from living next door to any neighbor.   Maybe your neighbors have many teenage kids coming and going at all hours.  How about your neighbor's barking dogs at 6:00 in the morning – or midnight.  Or basketball playing in the yard next door, which is the direction of your bedroom window.   Many common living situations you cannot "control", so how exactly is situation so different.  Sometimes it might even be preferable to other "neighbor" situations that are extremely uncomfortable…at least if you have to call the police, you don't have to see these people again.

        If a neighbor finds this is annoying, go and buy five acres in the far suburbs and enjoy the peace and quiet that you bought and paid for – and can control.



      2. Utopian nonsense

        In the hope that this would not offend, I would have to completly disagree with your archaic and frankly closed minded and poorly thought out view. Firstly if the community was so close and supportive surely the first person to be approached with any issue would be the homeowner. I am inclined to believe that by the particularly unneighbourly way this has been dealt with that I can only assume there is another issue at play. Secondly everyone in this economic climate has to do what is necessary to stay afloat supporting their family at any cost necessary, if that means renting your property and downsizing then this is what must be done. Others will then criticise for losing the house and becoming a ward of the state.

        Please don't use such falsely utopian views in trying to justify what clearly reflects the deterioration of society now, in your time of need and vulnerability those who claim to be part of "the community" will now persecute you and cause more financial difficulty. Who wins? And why this particular individual considering they are living in an area that many other people are renting their homes to survive. Yes I do believe there is an element of prejudice, be it racial or otherwise. 

        This is a friendly reminder that from a very high horse nobody cares about the individual!!

        After the election of a black president and the socioeconomic climate you would think the mind set of the system it's self would be better than the mob mentality of the individual prejudice people.

  5. See the light

    Perhaps Ms Davies will see the light and offer her lovely home as a low cost long term rental. After enough tenants have made proper adjustments, she could then place the home into  a rent subsidy program and reap the benefits and share the pride with her neighbors. Hopefully, the complaining one lives right next door.

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