The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently examined the meaning of the terms “family” and “single housekeeping unit” in Slice of Life v. Hamilton Township Hearing Board, (hereinafter Slice of Life) decided April 26, 2019 at J-97-2018 (No. 7 MAP 2018). It is not hyperbole to suggest, even with some unanswered questions, that this opinion has (dependent on an appropriately drafted ordinance) outlawed vacation rentals in homes in single-family residential districts. Thus, this decision is of vital importance, considering the proliferation of short-term rental offerings, with marketing streamlined by websites as Airbnb and VRBO.

Significantly, our highest court reversed the Commonwealth Court holding that ambiguity existed in an ordinance that was drafted with the intent of barring transient short-term rentals in an area zoned as residential. The court defined its task as determining whether a zoning ordinance that defines “family” as requiring a “single housekeeping unit” permits purely transient use of a property located in a residential zoning district. The court clearly recognized the larger context from which this appeal germinated—the effects on residential communities of the exploding on-line rentals of single-family homes in Pennsylvania to transient vacationers.

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