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Sat, Oct. 19

Governor Ducey defends new law protecting short-term rentals

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey is defending a new law he signed that allows people with one home — or dozens — to rent them out for weekends no matter what local cities and the neighbors think.

The new law that takes effect Aug. 6 overrules any existing or future city or county ordinance that limits short-term rentals. The only thing communities could regulate are things like noise and parking rules.

Ducey touted the new law as good not only for those seeking alternatives to hotels and resorts but also for the homeowners who can make some money.

“For thousands of hardworking citizens, opening up their home to out-of-state guests provides the financial breathing room they need to provide for their family or enjoy an extra expense that they otherwise couldn’t afford,” the governor said.

Yavapai County Director of Development Services Steven Mauk, who believes the policy will not take effect until Jan. 1, said the county is no longer accepting applications for use permits to allow short-term rental properties. From a pragmatic place, based on the lengthy investigative permitting process, “it’s hard to go down a path that will be pulled out underneath you come Jan. 1,” he said.

In fact, during the June 1 Board of Supervisors meeting, the board approved refunding Davis and Cathy Hartman their application fee. The Hartmans want to rent out their home on a 3.9-acre parcel in Paulden to students who attend the nearby Gunsite Academy.

Board Vice Chair Tom Thurman said he supports the refund because of the proposed use for Gunsite students, but he believes some municipalities are going to find the new law unconstitutional and sue.

The law, however, covers more than those renting out a bedroom, or even their whole home. There is no limit on the number of properties an investor could buy and days a home could be rented out — and all in the same residential area — potentially turning the whole area into a vacation rental zone. But the governor brushed aside questions of whether that could change the character of neighborhoods.

“I’m not going to answer these hypotheticals,” Ducey said.

“And the markets adjust,” he continued. “Somehow we survive people making entrepreneurial decisions and innovative aps like this, provide convenience and cost-sharing opportunities.”

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns agreed not to oppose the measure after it was amended to preserve local health and safety ordinances. But that still wasn’t enough to convince everyone at the Capitol that allowing anyone to open up one or more homes to vacation rentals was in the best interests of others already living in an area.

“I didn’t move into a neighborhood to have the house next door to me turned into a weekly rental property,” said Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, in voting against the measure earlier this year.

But the question of what the neighbors might think did not arise Wednesday: The ceremony was at the secluded home of Ed and Lynn Newhall, whose property far off the street — and not near any other homes — has been in the family for three generations. Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said the location was chosen by Airbnb.

The measure was pushed through the legislature by Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria. “My priority goal was to protect individual rights and property rights,” she said.

But Lesko dismissed concerns that some of her constituents will be surprised when they find weekend rentals in their residential neighborhoods. And she rejected the idea that speculators could change the character of neighborhoods by buying up multiple properties for weekend.

“It possibly could occur,” Lesko said. “If something like that happened and there is noise or parking issues then the city is given the authority to step in against bad actors.”

Anyway, she said, that is more likely to be the exception.

“In most of these situations they’re good people that rent homes,” Lesko said.

“They just want to stay someplace and have the Arizona experience,” she said. “They’re not causing any problems. They’re just sleeping there, they’re just eating there, and they’re good neighbors.”

Ducey also insisted that the new law will actually expand the Arizona economy, rejecting the idea that all it will mean is people who already are coming to Arizona will stay in a home rather than a hotel.

“I would say we’re supplementing it rather than displacing,” the governor said. “I would say we are adding rather than disrupting.”

Ducey put the number of Arizonans renting out properties at more than 100, saying 131,000 guests stayed at Airbnb facilities in the state last year.

Courier reporter Sue Tone contributed to this story. Follow her on Twitter @ToneNotes. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2043 or 928-642-7867.

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