Ohio bill would block local regulations on Airbnbs, Vrbos and other short-term home rentals

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bill that would prevent local governments from banning or limiting Airbnbs, Vrbos and other short-term home rentals is advancing at the Ohio Statehouse, after allowing a preliminary committee vote last week .

House Bill 563 would prevent cities, towns and townships from banning short-term rentals outright, but would also prevent them from limiting their number or regulating the duration or frequency of rentals.

It says local governments can still regulate rental homes under fire codes, health codes, noise ordinances and other similar reasons, as long as the rules are the same that apply equally. to traditional long-term rentals.

State Representative Sarah Fowler Arthur, an Ashtabula County Republican who rents out her Geneva-on-the-Lake home through Airbnb, said her bill is primarily aimed at preventing local governments from outright banning just short-term rentals.

“We believe that home is an asset that an individual should be able to use,” Fowler Arthur said. “And they should be able to do so within the legal limits of local government and the state. But an outright ban does not respect their private property rights.

If it becomes law, the bill would be just the latest example of the Republican-controlled legislature overriding the local authority that local governments are promised by the state constitution, and would likely result in legal challenges. for these reasons. It’s also the latest example of the struggle between emerging technology platforms disrupting traditional industries and governments trying to update their regulations to reflect them.

To become law, HB563 would still require approval from the full House, then the Senate, before heading to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s office for signing.

The bill has 27 Republican co-sponsors and also has support from real estate investors, conservative political groups and business groups, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which says it creates a regime uniform statewide regulatory framework for an emerging industry.

“An adequate supply of housing and accommodation options is essential to the economic growth of thriving communities and overall social mobility; that supply should not be constrained by unnecessary barriers imposed by local governments,” said Jeff Dillon, a lobbyist for the American Prosperity Conservatives, in committee testimony.

Airbnb, which supports the bill, said the company’s hosts earned about $160 million in 2021, including $19 million from hosts who were new to the platform.

“We support this bill because it would protect the right of Ohioans to earn meaningful supplemental income through short-term rental of their homes, while allowing local municipalities to pass tenancy laws to short term that deal with important considerations such as occupation and public safety. , in addition to the restrictions that also apply to long-term rentals,” Lara Dailey, the company’s chief policy officer, said in a statement.

The bill has drawn opposition from a myriad of local governments, who say it would prevent communities from enforcing their own standards. Opponents also include local tourism bureaus, which are funded by taxes imposed on hotels whose short-term rentals are often exempt.

Fowler Arthur said cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, his bill is not intended to override existing regulations; she said her understanding is that this will prevent communities from putting in place future legislation banning short-term rentals and ensuring parity between short-term rentals and traditional long-term rentals.

But Kent Scarrett, an Ohio Municipal League lobbyist who opposes the bill, said his group’s reading is that it would immediately override local regulations.

The Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association, a consortium of the county’s 59 cities and towns, opposes the bill, as does the Northeast Ohio Mayors and Managers Association, who held a vote to that effect this week.

Pepper Pike Mayor Richard Bain, who heads the Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association, in an interview called the legislation “a direct attack on self-reliance.”

“It’s a business venture. He is not a resident inviting people to his home for a wedding reception after their child is married. This is a commercial enterprise,” Bain said.

Beyond the philosophical question of autonomy, the most common complaints cities have about Airbnb and similar short-term rentals are the loud parties they can attract.

Bain said during the recent NBA All Star weekend, someone rented a house from Pepper Pike and hosted parties with 300 people every night for several nights, leading to complaints from residents.

And in Seven Hills, more than 250 people crammed into a house on New Year’s Eve in 2018 after a man rented a room there. The police said the man advertised the party online, charging $5 to enter after paying $40 for the room.

The incident led Airbnb to ban the man from the platform, while Seven Hills has banned short-term rentals – calling it a ‘moratorium’ – since then as it is working on an ordinance regulating them.

Seven Hills Mayor Anthony Biasiotta said city council is expected to approve the ordinance at its next meeting on May 23, when it will allow short-term rentals again, requiring them to register with the city and to pay fees, among other rules.

“When a person buys a house in a dormitory community, they are not expected to buy a house next to a short-term rental that can accommodate 100 people on a given weekend,” said Biasiotta. “Your neighbors are expected to conduct normal landlord and suburban activities in this house.”

Another concern that may arise relates to more touristy cities.

Andy Herf, a lobbyist for the Ohio Association of Visitors and Convention Bureaus, said in other states investors have bought up clusters of properties with the specific idea of ​​using them as full-time rentals. This can leave areas of the city empty during the non-travel season. And in an extreme example in New York, an investor bought an entire building for the same reason.

“You can’t have a rulebook that says, we can have it, but you can’t let it take over your town,” Herf said. “And we believe local government should be allowed to make those decisions.”

Many communities limit short-term rentals through zoning laws, including Geneva-on-the-Lake, a small resort community where Fowler Arthur lives and rents out his home using the Airbnb platform.

Village administrator Jeremy Shaffer submitted a letter to the committee reviewing the legislation stating his opposition. In an interview, Shaffer said the village views Airbnbs as a different type of business and regulates them that way, such as requiring them to obtain a business license and undergo a security inspection. They are also only allowed in certain areas of the village, he said.

He said it’s unclear how the proposed law change would affect the village’s bylaws.

“I guess the uncertainty is why we’re against it. It doesn’t seem very clear to us,” he said.

Fowler Arthur said she had no problem with her experience working with Geneva-on-the-Lake on her Airbnb, which received a license from the village, and said she had obtained legal advice stating that ‘She had no conflict of interest, since the legislation will not directly benefit her.

“We’ve worked with the system quite a bit, and any time you have a working knowledge of how it’s supported to work, it really helps diagnose the issues that people are having,” she said.

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