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Cities have tools to address bad actors in home sharing

Old metal sign with the inscription For Rent

Old metal sign with the inscription For Rent

Today, the internet enables homeowners and travelers to connect more easily than ever before, and platforms like Airbnb and VRBO now help thousands of responsible Arizona homeowners rent rooms or houses to make extra income, pay their mortgages, maintain their homes, and invest back into their communities. Unfortunately, special interests are threatening to take it all away.

While “home-sharing” might seem like a modern invention, it’s actually a centuries-old tradition. For generations, Americans have allowed visitors to stay in their homes, rather than hotels, in exchange for meals, or chores, or money. The decision to let someone stay in one’s home has for generations been considered a fundamental part of any homeowner’s rights.

Christina Sandefur

Christina Sandefur

Short-term rentals provide an incredible boost to Arizona’s economy, generating tax revenue, bringing visitors to local businesses outside of hotel districts, and creating jobs for cleaners, landscapers, handymen, and the like. It also gives entrepreneurs an incentive to buy dilapidated houses and restore them. For example, in 2012, Arizona resident Glenn Odegard bought an abandoned house in historic Jerome that had stood vacant for 60 years. Because he could recoup costs renting to visitors, Glenn restored the home to its original condition. The opportunities of short-term renting enabled him to turn a former eyesore into a community gem—at no cost to taxpayers.

In 2016, Arizona passed the bipartisan Home-Sharing Act to protect the rights of responsible homeowners to rent homes to overnight guests, and to ensure that cities could collect taxes from those rentals. The law enables cities to enforce rules against excessive noise or nuisances just as they did before – but blocks them from imposing arbitrary, across-the-board bans on short-term rentals – bans that punish the innocent for the wrongs of a few and violate private property rights.

That’s a common-sense approach. The vast majority of short-term renters are responsible operators and their guests respectful to neighbors. The short-term rental business gives homeowners strong incentives to keep their properties clean and well-maintained – negative reviews discourage guests from booking, and can even result in the removal of a property from a platform, and while there may be times when guests get rowdy or discourteous, cities already have laws to address such nuisances. The Home-Sharing Act allows cities to enforce those existing laws to protect quiet, clean, and safe neighborhoods. And last year, the Legislature reiterated that authority by adopting an amendment that repeats the point: cities may ban non-residential uses (including party houses or event facilities), and punish bad actors with fines.

In other words, the Home-Sharing Act already enables cities to punish homeowners who host disruptive guests, or use residentially-zoned homes for non-residential uses. But the Act forbids cities from banning all short-term rentals outright, as most home-sharers are responsible and considerate neighbors. That makes sense. After all, we don’t outlaw all backyard barbecues just because some get rowdy, or prohibit people from having Super Bowl parties just because a few of them cause parking problems.

Special interests, though, have begun disseminating misinformation about the Act, causing confusion about what authority cities have and even calling for new laws to eradicate homeowners’ rights. They claim cities are powerless to restrict party houses – which is just not true. And the new legislation they propose would forbid even conscientious homeowners from allowing guests to stay in their homes.

This disinformation campaign risks violating property rights and obliterating an important part of Arizona’s economy. And it threatens to worsen neighborhood conflicts and burden police departments’’ budgets, by encouraging neighbors to spy on each other to ensure they aren’t renting to overnight guests – and to call the police even when nobody is causing a disturbance.

Arizona’s Home-Sharing Act is a sensible law that says cities should use their existing powers to crack down on bad actors, rather than stripping innocent homeowners of their rights. Eliminating it would make it harder for Arizonans to pay their bills, increase neighborhood conflict, reduce property values, and hinder the state’s economy. And it’s all unnecessary. Cities already have the tools they need to address nuisances. They just need to use them.

Christina Sandefur is the Executive Vice President at the Goldwater Institute.

2 comments

  1. Christina, Thank you for writing this sensible piece. I run a property management company in Denver and we are struggling with this very topic on a daily basis. We’ve created an advocacy group and are making waves, but it’s an uphill battle. We are sending Denver city reps examples of cities that are “doing things right”. I am sending this article along to them and wanted to shoot you over a quick THANKS & KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

  2. Lifelong Phoenician

    This is disinformation and lacks any understanding of how the cities currently operate. You can’t regulate disorderly renters using Neighborhood Services because they will never see the house being used as an event venue- they work weekdays 9-5 and must see the violation themselves. Current noise ordinance fees also don’t offset the money being made by people renting to disorderly people. I can only hope that your bias becomes slightly more balanced when your neighbors start renting out their properties as party houses. That is the real violation of our homeowner rights, and a literal threat to our community (do some research on recent shootings at short term rental party houses). Or maybe you live in a swanky HOA and don’t have to worry about it because all your money protects you. $$$$$$$ This isnt a net gain for the city- see Barcelona, Boston and all the other cities suffering from unregulated short term rentals.

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