INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Supreme Court has affirmed the authority of Ogden Dunes to prohibit short-term rentals of single-family homes.
In a 4-1 decision, the state's high court ruled Wednesday that Steven and Lauren Siwinski violated the town's residential zoning ordinance by renting their Shore Drive home five times to summer vacationers in 2007.
The town code defines a single-family home as a detached dwelling used exclusively by one family.
By renting their home to other families, the Siwinskis violated the code and were fined more than $40,000, the town said.
Town officials began stringently enforcing residential zoning rules in 2007 to prevent the lakefront community of 1,300 people from turning into a resort area.
In 2010, the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected the town's claim that its zoning rules prohibited short-term rentals and said the Siwinskis complied with the code because the rented home was being used in a residential manner and by only one family at a time.
But the Supreme Court said there's no ambiguity in the town ordinance requiring homes be used exclusively by the same family.
"We find the ordinance clearly forbids the renting of a home in the residential district," Justice Steven David wrote.
At the same time, the court ordered the fines against the Siwinskis reduced to no more than $32,500 because of an error by town officials in calculating the correct fine.
Justice Robert Rucker, a Gary native, concurred with the result in the case and said the Siwinskis also violated zoning rules by operating a business in a residential area when the code restricts all business activity to a commercial district.
Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. dissented from the ruling, saying he agreed with the appeals court's decision.