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Tue, Oct. 22

Editorial: Rentals, rights not always fair

To be clear: local governments, Yavapai County included, do not forbid rentals – short- or long-term but they do have requirements.

To be clear: local governments, Yavapai County included, do not forbid rentals – short- or long-term but they do have requirements.

You could call it homeowners’ rights, protecting community, splitting hairs, or too much government. The topic is homeowners renting their properties, mostly short-term rentals on lodging websites such as Airbnb.

Previously, The Daily Courier has reported multiple times about local government efforts to rein in an increase in “illegal short-term lodging rentals” on Internet sites. Yavapai County Land Use and Planning Division Manager Dave Williams stated in early 2015 that approximately 1,000 people could be illegally renting their properties as lodging, and many of them don’t know they are operating outside the law.

Some would look at this as a private property right: “I can do whatever I want on my property; I pay the mortgage, they don’t.”

We all know that’s not entirely true, considering the number of animals you can have, setbacks and improvements, for example, all are regulated. Still, Yavapai County requires a use permit for rentals to protect neighbors’ interests.

In prior hearings, one commissioner called it protecting the “flavor of the neighborhood.” And people do care, evidenced by the county receiving “a large number of complaints countywide,” Williams said, and the problem is not limited to one area (it’s everywhere).

What’s the rub? State lawmakers have inserted themselves into the mix, with the Senate this week giving preliminary approval to a bill that would prevent local governments (cities, towns, counties, etc.) from banning homeowners from hosting short-term rentals. The measure expands on Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to make Arizona a destination for the “sharing economy,” the Associated Press reported.

To be clear: local governments, Yavapai County included, do not forbid rentals – short- or long-term but they do have requirements.

I call that a fair assessment, even though some people who have come up for permits have said they rely on the rentals for income. By the way, hearings that the Courier has covered run the gamut as far as property size, communities and locations locally – and not everyone gets a permit. The tally stands at 4-1, with the one being a short-term rental that was denied in the Mountain Club area (opposed by county Planning and Zoning and the community’s board of directors, plus six neighbors opposing and nine in favor).

Under the legislation, it would be easier for property and homeowners to offer short-term rentals. Plus, the bill as of Monday allows Airbnb and similar websites to collect taxes on behalf of renters – who are expected to pay on their own under current law – and turn them over to the state to be divided up for cities and towns.

The bill’s sponsor says the intent is to protect homeowners and reduce government bureaucracy. The Arizona Department of Revenue agreed the bill would simplify the tax collection process.

Personally, I see it as more government. It’s as clear as mud who wins, whether this is about taxes or property rights, and it makes me wonder if the Mountain Club property owner could see another chance in this.

Senate Bill 1350 is awaiting a formal vote.

In the meantime, know that Big Brother is watching what we do – even if locally the government has been doing fine so far and your rights are only those given to you.

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