(The Center Square) – The Arizona House has broadly rejected a proposal to limit short-term rental houses, not for objecting to reining in the properties but because it didn’t do enough.
Lawmakers voted down Senate Bill 1379 by a wide bipartisan margin. Republicans and Democrats said the measure was an attempt to remedy a problem but didn’t go far enough to appease residents who complained about nuisance rentals in their districts.
“This is the single issue that I have heard more about directly from constituents who have absolutely had their lives turned upside down by party houses in their neighborhoods and the inability of their cities and towns to do anything to regulate them because of the actions of our predecessors in this body,” said Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley.
A 2016 law precludes local governments from imposing any bans on short-term rentals, something mayors have lamented in popular tourist destinations such as Sedona and Scottsdale.
“We have heard time and again from neighbors who are, truly, having all kinds of horrible things happen in their neighborhoods because they’re being overrun by these short-term rentals, that our law enforcement is having trouble keeping control of them,” Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Scottsdale, said. “We need to fix something that we broke.”
Sponsored by Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, the bill, which the House defeated Thursday, would have imposed fines for every 30 days that a vacation rental owner didn’t provide contact information to a local government that required it, allowed towns to require hosts insure for liability and imposed punishments of up to $3,500 or the value of three nights rent for violating local ordinances.
Senate Bill 1379 also would have added other penalties for violations, including losing a license to operate in the location, and allowed for zoning changes at the local level.
Rep. Jeff Weninger, a Chandler Republican and the bill’s House sponsor, argued they were taking a measured response to growing complaints about party houses.
“We get endless emails referring to those,” he said, adding the bill addresses the issue fully.
While many Republicans opposed regulating Airbnb homes out of respect for individual property rights, Rep. John Kavanaugh, R-Fountain Hills, was an early opponent of the 2016 move to keep cities from regulating short-term rentals. He said the industry’s major players aren’t willing to give up any real concessions.
“The one thing that this bill doesn’t do that needs to be addressed are the excessive concentrations of these short-term rentals in certain communities,” he said, noting that Sedona is seen as a worst-case scenario.
The popular tourist city has seen vacation rentals proliferate in recent years to the point that officials estimate they account for 20% of the total housing industry. The valley is home to thousands of advertised vacation rentals.