Thursday, November 20, 2014

Advocate for short term rental property owners: " outweigh council members who try to protect neighborhoods"

I received an email blast from an organizer of short term rental property owners who oppose regulations of their industry. By way of introduction, short term rental properties provide lodging options for tourists outside of the hotel industry and B&Bs. The number of rental options in residential areas has exploded in the last 5 years throughout the city in part because they are not regulated and they are tax-free.

The letter is stunning for its candor:

There will be another Community Meeting about the STRP Bill at the Martin Professional Development Center at 2400 Fairfax Avenue on Monday, November 24 at 5:30.

Likely topics of discussion: the companion bill introduced last night, insurance, property value, neighborhood compatibility. The most effective participation at this meeting will be people who can speak positively about the short term rental experience in the context of neighborhood culture. There may be some new voices added to this conversation who object to the concept "in their backyard."

It is critical to get this bill passed. Until we do, we are all in a very uncomfortable position. Who knows how many people will get tax letters next month? Deciding how to handle this has been excruciating since we have received different (almost opposite) pieces of advice from multiple professionals. The conundrum of applying for a business license (which you are supposed to have in order to pay these taxes) with a residential address is a huge obstacle. The fact that codes says one thing and finance says another when we call metro makes knowing what to do difficult. The hosts that I have discussed this with are not fighting the tax, but unsure how to proceed in this very ambiguous situation in order to protect themselves from penalties.

As one host eloquently articulated at our meeting last night before council, we must appeal to those council members who want to see the tax revenue added to the coffers. We need those people to outweigh the council members who are trying to protect neighborhoods. I am frequently the loudest voice on this topic, but I think this need to protect the culture of the neighborhood is misplaced. I think it comes from people who do not understand that short term rentals are operating in their neighborhoods right now, and they are not even aware of it.

We also need to consider getting some trusted neighbors who are not hosts to write in favor of this bill. I am more than happy to compose a sample message for us to offer to those people that we know are happy to have us.Often, people are willing to send a letter of support, but they don't have time to write it. If any one would like this message, let me know. I plan to work on it after I hear what people say at the next community meeting.

Actually, I'm starting to become aware of homes in my neighborhood that are being used for short term rentals. Whether it occurs to the organizer or not, I am more concerned with not knowing that there are unregulated short term rentals in my neighborhood.

I certainly hope that neighborhood associations who are concerned about the untrammeled growth of short term rental properties in their communities are watchdogging this process. They need to make sure that their quality of life is protected by Metro government, which tends to cave to any money-making enterprise.

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