Americans Want to Legalize Short-Term Rentals

A new poll by the Short Term Rental Advocacy Center found that 84 percent of Americans believe “families should be free to occasionally rent out their own home.”  Airbnb, a popular rental listing site; TripAdvisor, and other industry leaders founded the Center earlier this year to reform renting laws.  Their poll also found that 75 percent of Americans support “fair and reasonable rules to regulate the practice of short-term renting” (i.e. less than 30 days), though it didn’t specify what these “fair and reasonable rules” would look like.

While the Center’s poll might seem a bit obvious, more and more cities are trying to curb short-stay rentals.  This is incredibly short-sighted.  Rooms listed on Airbnb can be 20 to 50 percent cheaper than hotels, which clearly benefits consumers.  By driving down the cost of visiting a city and increasing the supply of accommodations, these rentals can boost tourism.  Airbnb rentals in Paris contributed $240 million in a year to the local economy, while Crain’s estimates they could have an economic impact worth $1 billion in New York State.  Plus, the property owners can earn some income on the side.  It’s a win-win-win…except for the established hotels.

Unsurprisingly, hotels across the country aren’t exactly hospitable to more competition.  In New Orleans, hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and motels have lobbied the city to aggressively crack down on short-term rentals.  These rentals earned an estimated $13 million each year.  But in the Crescent City, it’s actually illegal to rent out a room without a license for short periods: less than 60 days in the French Quarter and under 30 days if the room is outside the French Quarter.

The Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents, and Associates (VCPORA) is working with state legislators to increase fines for short-term rentals, which are already at $500.

Meanwhile, as the Institute for Justice reported back in May, in New York, “renting out one’s own property for less than a month is actually illegal.”  Nigel Warren was even fined $2,400 for renting his New York apartment for three nights through Airbnb.  Like in New Orleans, the Hotel Association of New York is staunchly opposed to easing up on sites like Airbnb.

Resident and business groups argue these rentals attract raucous visitors, harming the quality of life in many neighborhoods.  But rather than trying to eliminate all short-term rentals entirely, it would be far better to use nuisance ordinances to address their concerns.

— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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