Arizona House Gives Cities, Counties Rights To Regulate Short-Term Rentals
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- A divided House voted Wednesday to give cities and counties back some of the rights they used to have to regulate short-term rentals.
Much of what is in HB 2375, given preliminary approval on a voice vote, is technical. For example, it requires that if the house is being rented out by someone who does not live on the property that that the owner's name and contact information be posted on the front door.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that provides an avenue for neighborhood residents to complain about problems directly to the owners rather than calling the police.
But his legislation also permits city and county officials to limit the number of people who can occupy a house to no more than two per bedroom. That is designed to limit disturbance to neighbors.
The measure also allows cities and counties to require the installation of safety and noise-monitoring equipment. More to the point is the ability to demand that this equipment directly notify the owners or that person's designee if the noise exceeds a certain level.
And cities could require that renters use any available off-street parking.
The move comes four years after Gov. Doug Ducey signed bipartisan legislation stripping cities of oversight of short-term rentals saying he was promoting innovation and free markets. It was promoted by lobbyists for Airbnb and other home-sharing apps.
On Wednesday, Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, told colleagues that things did not work out quite as advertised.
"We might recall that Airbnb was sold as an idea to allow people who wanted to rent an extra room to make extra income, who maybe had that vacation home in Flagstaff, to rent the vacation home when they were not using it,'' she said "I can understand and respect that.''
But the reality of preempting local regulations, Blanc said, created something quite different.
"We have opened this up wide for investment companies, for investment companies outside our state to come into our state, purchasing up properties,'' she said. And Blanc said that those who operate hotels are deciding to buy up apartments for short-term rentals, creating de facto hotels without having to deal with the requirements and tax obligations.
When Ducey signed the legislation in 2016 he was asked about the possibility that the measure, billed as helping individual homeowners, actually could change the character of local neighborhoods as there was no limit on the number of properties an investor could buy nor a cap on the number of days a home could be rented out. The governor brushed aside that possibility.
"I'm not going to answer these hypotheticals,'' he said.
Since that time Ducey has consistently opposed restoring local regulatory authority, though he did sign legislation last year outlawing the use of rentals as "party homes.''
Kavanagh said that didn't go far enough.
"One of the problems we have right now is there is no regulation,'' he said.
"This bill is called the 'zero footprint bill,' '' Kavanagh said. "The idea is to try to make these short-term rentals invisible to the nearby neighbors so there will be no complaint and no phone calls to the police and the code enforcers.''
Blanc said she doesn't believe the measure goes far enough, saying she prefers removing all state restrictions and allowing each community to decide what controls they want. That could include things not in the Kavanagh bill, such as limiting the overall number of short-term rentals in any city or any neighborhood to help preserve the supply of affordable housing for local residents.
But the measure has opposition from those who believe it already goes too far.
"This is a direct assault on property rights,'' said Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale.
The bill needs a final roll-call vote before going to the Senate which is considering its own ideas for restoring some city controls.
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