In February 2015, the Metro Council passed legislation regulating Short-term Rental Properties (STRP), also know as peer-to-peer rental or sometimes called "Airbnb rentals," taking the name from a website that connects those with a housing unit to rent to those seeking to rent a unit. These properties are rooms or homes that people rent for a short term to visitors to our city. The regulations cover everything from how many such units may be allowed in each census track to a requirement that operators of such units get a permit, to requirements that owners collect taxes and the number of days a host may rent to any one party and a whole host of other things.
This type rental first began appearing without any prohibition and became popular before the authorities even were aware of this service. Once aware, there were various concerns raised, ranging from the fact that the owners of these units were not paying hotel-motel tax to issues of parking and noise. After a long time in the works, the city finally passed rules regulated this type activity in February 2015. Since then, the regulations have been tweaked several times. A lot of what was regulated was already regulated by other provisions of the code such as the building codes, signage codes, and parking and noise ordinances, but much of it was new. (To read the regulations, follow these links:SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-909 and BILL NO. BL2014-951.)
In October 2016, the law was struck down as being unconstitutionally vague. While the Judge in the case later amended his ruling to say the city could continue to enforce the law against anyone but the plaintiffs in the case, if anyone else would have brought the same suit, it can be assumed they would have also won their case and have been exempted from the law also. In January of this year, the Council considered legislation to remove the ambiguity in the language in order to make the law constitutional and while at it, to incorporate the many changes to the law into one ordinance.
On January 4th, the Council held a public hearing on the proposed new ordinance and while a lot of people, mostly owners of these units, spoke in favor, many more people spoke against, mostly neighborhood activist. At that meeting, some people wanted to ban all short-term rental properties, some wanted to ban those non-owner occupied short-term rental properties that were located in multi-family properties and some wanted to ban those and the STRP that were non-owner occupied in single family homes. To view that two hours of public hearing, follow this link.
The complaints against STRP include, noise issues, parking issues, and a concern that they take residential properties off of the rental market and drive up residential rents. Some, feel there should be a strict separation between residential uses and commercial uses of property and they view the STRP as a commercial use. Some brought up "character of the neighborhood" issues and said that "transient border" do not care about things like the quality of schools or other issues the way normal renters do and that these units weaken the fabric of a community.
Since that meeting, a couple of council members, Sheri Weiner and Burkley Allen, have called for moratorium on new STRP. The proposed moratorium would apply to owner-occupied and non-owner-occupied. They plan to amend the pending bill to include a moratorium of indeterminate lenght (link to Tennessean story). The proposed moratorium does not go far enough to please neighborhood activist, however. They are calling on the council to completely ban non-owner-occupied STRP (link to Tennessean story).
In my view there should be no ban nor moratorium. If I were in the Council I would vote against a proposal for either and if either passed I would vote against the bill. A bill does need to pass to make what is now on the books constitutional, but there should be no taking of property rights by taking away what is already permitted. If this proposed bill passes with a moratorium or ban, I hope that either it is successfully challenged in court or the State legislature passes legislation to trump Council action.
I did not like the original bills thinking they went to far. I would have voted for it however, because I do think there should be some minimal rregulations and the owners should pay the hotel-motel tax. One thing I did not particularly like about the ordinal was that the city imposed absolute limits on the number of STRP that could be in each census track. The creates an artificial shortage of STRP and protects those who got certificates first from competition. A moratorium or ban would ffurther enrich current owners of STRP by protecting them from competition.
I suspect that those units that are causing problems for neighbors are those that are unlicensed. The city should go after those and leave the good operators alone. If there is a feeling that too many units are being converted to STRP and that is impacting rents, then just wait. That is a problem that will resolve itself. I have a sibling who turned a rental property they own into a STRP and operated it for several months and then turned it back into a regular long-term rental. While the nightly rental rate may seems high, operating one of the STRP is a lot of work. Many people will tire of it. Also, there are hundreds of hotel and motel rooms either under construction in Nashville or approved. As these come on line, their will be less demand for STRP. They would not go away, but if Nashville had sufficient number of hotel and motel units, some people who now choose a STRP would instead stay in a hotel.
The council should not give an inordinate amount of attention to so-called neighborhood leaders. In essence they are often virtually self-appointed. I have headed a neighborhood organization and been involved in others. A neighborhood may have several hundred residents but at an annual meeting to elect officers only a dozen people may show up. People have to be begged to become officers. If you want to be president of your neighborhood association you most likely can be. "Neighborhoods" have no legal standing and the boundaries are not even fixed. While I think neighborhood organizations are helpful to promote neighborhood watch and keep people informed about what is going on in their community, a neighborhood organization does not necessarily speak for the neighborhood. They speak for the small handful of people who participate in the organization.
There is a Airbnb property diagonally across the street from me and one on the same side of the street two doors down. I have never had a problem with them. I don't mind watching the family groups play touch football in the front yard or watch the batcheloretts come and go. The owner who lives in the neighborhood has gone door to door visiting neighbors. She has been by to see me and gave me her phone number and said if there ever was a problem to not hesitate to call her.
While there may be some problems with some Airbnb rentals, there are adequate rules to address those issues. I think the opposition to Airbnb is much to do about nothing, some people just needing an issue, and some people are just not happy if someone else is having fun.