Lawmakers want more local control over short-term rentals

PHOENIX – Some Republican lawmakers want to review – and repeal – the 2016 measure that deprived local governments of their ability to regulate short-term rentals and vacation rentals.

Representative Walt Blackman of Snowflake said the legislation pushed by Airbnb and its other companies and backed by Governor Doug Ducey has had a serious negative effect on neighborhoods. So he introduced House Bill 2069 to put the law back as it was before any changes were made.

Her Senate seat neighbor, Wendy Rogers of Flagstaff, has identical legislation in Senate Bill 1026.

This move will spark a fight, and not just from businesses that have a clearinghouse that allows people to rent everything from single rooms to entire homes.

Senator JD Mesnard, R-Chandler, plans to introduce a less comprehensive measure that gives cities and counties some control over issues like noise and other violations. He said it should help deal with perennial complaints of “party houses” appearing in residential areas.

Blackman, however, said these efforts fall short of what is needed to ensure that neighborhood homes are not turned into de facto hotels.

The original measure was sold to lawmakers as allowing individuals to rent a spare room to earn some extra cash. In fact, this is how Airbnb got its name, the idea being an air mattress installed for a guest.

“For thousands of hard-working citizens, opening their homes to out-of-state guests provides the financial leeway they need to support family or take advantage of extra expenses they don’t have. otherwise could not afford, ”Ducey said as he signed the bill. .

But the reality turned out to be quite different.

In some communities, houses and apartments in entire areas have been bought by investors to be converted into these short-term rentals, drying up the availability of affordable housing for local residents and converting entire areas into vacation rental areas. – possibilities that Ducey rejected in 2016 as “hypothetical”.

In 2019, however, the governor admitted there were “unintended consequences” in the law.

“It shows in the situation with Airbnb and other organizations that we have people doing things that disrupt communities,” Ducey said.

This resulted in some amendments allowing cities to enact public safety rules, such as requiring landlords to provide a contact for who could respond to complaints and prohibiting rentals from being used for special events like weddings.

But Blackman told Capitol Media Services that it all lacks the basics. He said these are local issues and not the business of state lawmakers.

“It should be decided at the lowest level of government,” he said.

“It’s the mayors, the city councils,” Blackman continued. “It’s the people who live in this area.”

Mesnard, however, sees the matter from another angle.

First, he said, it will create “a mishmash of regulations” between cities. But Mesnard said the bigger problem is leaving those decisions to mayors and council members will “trample property rights,” which means the ability of individuals to use their homes as they wish – and to to be able to earn money by renting them.

Blackman, however, said the property rights that are at issue here are those of the people living in the neighborhood, which is why such matters are best dealt with by local authorities.

“So if the community says they don’t want to do it, that’s a community decision, not a decision made here in the state,” he said.

Mesnard said he considered the main complaint to be these “party houses”. And he said there were ways to fix it.

Last year, for example, he proposed allowing communities to impose fines on landlords who fail to provide information to police and others to contact them about problems with tenants. The measure would also have allowed cities to impose minimum liability insurance.

Potentially more importantly, it would have meant that an owner would lose a state license to do business as a result of three violations of local ordinances within three months, violations that could include complaints of noise or nuisance.

It failed.

“It feels like the issue of party houses is being used to try and do more than just address party houses,” Mesnard said. And he said he would be open to further adjustments in the future to maintain that balance between the rights of individual owners and neighbors.

“But they want to put a hammer on it,” Mesnard said, repealing all the limits on what cities can and cannot ban. “I’m not going to support this.”

The problem, however, is not limited to party houses.

During the hearings last year, there were testimonies of investors setting up de facto hotels in residential areas, dividing the houses into several rooms rented by the night.

Then there is the issue of the drying up of the supply of affordable housing.

It has been estimated that up to 40% of residential properties in tourist destinations like Sedona are now vacation rentals. And Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who voted against the 2016 law, said this is also happening in places like Scottsdale.

Blackman said his colleagues should be sensitive to the imposition of limits on local control.

“We don’t want the federal government to tax us,” Blackman said.

“But we are doing it in local towns and villages,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Unsurprisingly, Airbnb opposes what Blackman and Rogers want and instead supports the more limited restrictions in Bill Mesnard, arguing that anything more would hurt the tourism economy.

No date has been set for a hearing on any of the proposals.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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