Effort to control trip leases dies – Arizona Capitol Occasions
State lawmakers overturned the last remaining measure to contain short-term vacation rentals Thursday, concluding that it has done so little it was not worth the effort.
SB1379 would have allowed municipalities to fine owners who fail to provide the police and others with information to contact them when there are problems with tenants. It would also allow them to require owners to maintain minimum liability insurance.
Perhaps most significant, after three violations of local regulations, an owner would lose a state license to do business within three months.
Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, said those that could involve things like noise or other violations. And that, he said, would allow cities to address the problem of the popping up of “party houses” in neighborhoods.
Most of his peers were not convinced, however, and voted 43-17 to kill what Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Scottsdale, called a “band-aid” fix to a much more complex problem.
With no more committees scheduled for this session, Thursday’s vote could put an end to efforts to fix issues that first arose in 2016 when lawmakers, backed by Airbnb and other home sharing apps, has deprived the cities of the right to regulate these holiday homes.
The measure was sold to lawmakers to give individuals the opportunity to rent out a guest room in order to make a bit more money. This is how Airbnb got its name. The idea was an air mattress that was set up for a guest.
But the reality turned out to be something else entirely.
In some communities, homes and apartments in entire areas have been bought up by investors to convert into these short-term rents, reducing the availability of housing for local residents.
“The worst scenario is, of course, in Sedona,” said Kavanagh, where hearings reported that up to 40% of residential properties are now vacation rentals. “It’s even happening in my district in downtown Scottsdale.”
And then the question arises of how many people can be pushed into one of the de facto vacant hotels.
“Everyone understands and values everyone’s right to make money, start a business, and build a business,” said Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley.
“If you do it right next to your house and run a hotel in a residential area, it is no longer your right to run a business,” he said. “That takes away your right to your home.”
But Weninger said those weren’t the complaints about short-term rents that are coming in.
“What they email and contact us are party houses,” he said. And Weninger said SB1379 had given the municipalities enough “autonomy” to deal with them.
Most notably, he said, the “death penalty” is the “death penalty” for homeowners who commit three violations in a 12 month period. And he has stood up to both colleagues and city officials who, when they concluded that this was insufficient, effectively wiped out any chance of law changes this year.
“I know I’ll have an email ready to copy and paste about why there are still party houses in the neighborhoods,” Weninger said.
But Lieberman said that was not the answer and called it “an industry bill”.
“The industry that caused this problem are the same people who are behind it,” he said, noting that the vacation rental lobbyists supported the move. “We really need to address this problem by going back to what we do with everything else: letting our cities and towns regulate how businesses are zoned in their communities.”
So was Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson.
“We need to tell the industry that it is time to regulate short-term rentals,” she said. We have to save our cities from it. “
Kavanagh said the loss of SB1379 likely makes the industry think it’s “in the driver’s seat and they don’t have to give up anything”.
But he said there are groups suggesting launching an initiative to put a more far-reaching proposal to voters in 2022.
“It probably had a good chance of passing,” said Kavanagh.
And if that group casts the ballot, it could bring the industry back to the negotiating table for fear that, from their point of view, something worse will be approved in the vote.
In a prepared statement, Expedia Group, which is responsible for vacation rental bookings, said it was disappointed that lawmakers had failed to endorse laws that it said “provided immediate tools to state and local authorities to address the nuisance issues associated with a small percentage of vacation rentals. The issues of occupancy limits and concentrations in city districts, which are important for some legislators, were not mentioned in the declaration.
There was no instant response from Airbnb.