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Houseboats could eventually face more regulation in South Haven

A view down the South Haven pier as visitors walk toward the lighthouse at sunset.
Sehvilla Mann
The South Haven pier in May 2019

Some visitors to South Haven are staying in houseboats. Now the city will study whether to regulate the boats as short-term rentals.

Last month the City Council appointed an ad-hoc committee to study the houseboat issue. Depending on its recommendations and the will of council members, houseboats may face more regulation in the future.

“There’s questions about how occupied vessels are inspected for safety. I think there can be utility concerns, and sure there could be rental concerns,” Griffin Graham, South Haven’s Assistant City Manager said.

“We do have an ordinance in place that regulates short-term rentals. We require them to be certified with the city and go through a safety inspection so I think it would be reasonable to conclude that one of the topics this committee may look at is if that’s something that should be extended to house boats,” Graham added.

“Right now the city’s short-term rental regulates dwelling units in a building, so the city has not to this point attempted to apply that to vessels,” he said.

“Could we? Potentially. But I think that’s something that this committee is going to have more conversation about.”

Graham added that the city’s responding to residents who’ve raised concerns about houseboats serving as short term rentals without being regulated as such.

The committee will include representatives from South Haven city government and the Harbor Commission.