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On Home-Sharing, Cities Should Follow Colorado Springs’s Example

December 28, 2018

 by Jacob Huebert
December 28, 2018

In many places across the country, 2018 was not a great year for home-sharing. But there have been rays of sunshine here and there—with the latest coming from the state of Colorado.

This year, local governments in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and other large and small cities passed laws severely limiting people’s ability to rent their homes through platforms such as Airbnb and Homeaway. They joined cities that imposed harsh home-sharing restrictions in previous years, such as Chicago and Miami Beach.

The details of these anti-home-sharing laws vary, but they have included:

  • Caps on the number of people in the city who can home-share, with arbitrary selection criteria;
  • Bans on short-term rentals of properties that aren’t the owner’s “primary residence”;
  • Bans on home-sharing in certain neighborhoods;
  • Burdensome licensing procedures and fees;
  • Warrantless searches of homes licensed for home-sharing; and
  • Astronomical fines on people who run afoul of the rules.

But when some called for similar restrictions in Colorado Springs, that city’s leaders took an approach that was much different—and much more respectful of owners’ property rights and consumers’ freedom to choose.

Under an ordinance the City Council unanimously passed in November, which takes effect December 31, anyone who wants to home-share in Colorado Springs will have to:

  • Obtain an annual permit, with no limit on the number of permits the city will issue;
  • Pay sales taxes on rentals, like anyone else who offers lodging for money;
  • Maintain property liability insurance to cover injuries to guests;
  • Have a local contact person on call to respond to guest emergencies within an hour; and
  • Follow the same laws on trash collection, noise, housing, and public health that apply to everyone else.

And that’s about all.

That’s about how it should be: If cities are going to regulate home-sharing, they should do so in a way that addresses basic health and safety concerns, makes home-sharers follow the same rules against noise and other nuisances as everyone else, and otherwise leaves people free to rent out their property as they see fit.

“We protect property rights, we are a fairly conservative city,” explained Colorado Springs City Council president pro tempore Jill Gaebler, “and if folks what to use their properties for [home-sharing], I don’t think the city should be stopping them.”

The city’s rejection of more stringent rules was a relief to local home-sharers, who repeatedly filled rooms where hearings on the proposals were held, with many holding signs at the final hearing demanding that the City Council “protect private property rights” and “protect the right to rent.” As testimony at these hearings showed, many residents counted on home-sharing for income. Before the vote, a local NPR story featured one of them, Tayari Appiah; only a year after moving to the city, Appiah was renting out several properties on Airbnb, enjoying giving visitors the opportunity to “feel like a local” and running a housecleaning business that serves other home-sharers.

To be sure, the Colorado Springs ordinance isn’t perfect. For example, it needlessly infringes property rights by allowing no more than four short-term rental units on a given property (such as an apartment building) and prohibiting any one person from renting out more than two units in a condo association or similar property. And there are other relatively minor rules whose necessity is questionable. (Colorado Springs homeowners should consult the ordinance or an attorney for complete rules governing home-sharing.)

Still, Colorado Springs’s overall approach stands in stark—and admirable—contrast to the hostility many other cities have lately shown toward home-sharing, property rights, and consumer choice.

Let’s hope that, in 2019, other cities notice how Colorado Springs respects its citizens’ rights, realize that the anti-home-sharers’ dubious predictions of negative consequences aren’t coming true, and follow its example.

Jacob Huebert is a Senior Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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