by Christina Sandefur
Across the country, local governments are turning responsible property owners into outlaws simply because they allow paying guests to stay in their homes overnight.
A couple months ago, I wrote on this blog about bills working their way through the Florida legislature that would protect property owners’ rights to share their homes while allowing cities to focus on enforcing nuisance restrictions to protect quite, clean, and safe neighborhoods. Unfortunately, those bills fell victim to special interests and other unforeseen circumstances and did not make it across the finish line to become legislation. But that won’t be the last effort to protect home-sharing in the Sunshine State.
Unfortunately, some states are taking steps in the opposite direction, with proposals that would threaten or gut property rights. For example, the Maryland legislature is considering a set of bills that would give cities more power to impose restrictive and patchwork regulations on home-sharing while forcing home-sharing platforms like Airbnb and Homeaway to police homeowners who use their websites. Connecticut lawmakers want to require cities to regulate home-sharing by imposing a series of cumbersome licensing requirements and procedures. And under the guise of collecting taxes, Massachusetts is considering a proposal that would force homesharers to submit personal information to the Department of Revenue, which would make homeowners’ personal addresses available online in searchable format.
Punishing responsible homeowners and conscientious entrepreneurs only discourages hard work and hinders economic growth. And it violates an essential element of our constitutional freedom, the Cornerstone of Liberty: the right to own property. And in addition to chipping away at property rights, these anti-home-sharing rules also have consequences for other rights, such as the rights to privacy, free speech, and to be free from arbitrary or discriminatory treatment. Cities may not deprive homeowners of their constitutionally protected rights simply because they offer their homes for rent on Airbnb or Homeaway.
There is a better way. A few years ago, Arizona made national news when it passed groundbreaking legislation, based on the Goldwater Institute’s model bill, to protect home-sharing. Arizona’s law ensures regulations on home-sharing are limited to addressing true health and safety concerns. States that want to “do something” about home-sharing should follow Arizona’s example. Rather than treating responsible homeowners like criminals, states can embrace the new opportunities the sharing economy provides property owners, visitors, and local businesses, and give homeowners a shot at living the American Dream.
Christina Sandefur is Executive Vice President of the Goldwater Institute.