October 2, 2020
By Kileen Lindgren
The Credit and Lang families each own vacation homes on Gull Lake in Ross Township, Michigan, and their homes have been respites for the families for generations—over 100 years each. Like so many other homeowners—not just in Ross Township, but across the country—they share their special getaways with others via short-term rentals. But they may not be able to do that much longer.
Their story is not unique, unfortunately. In places all across America, local governments are limiting homeowners’ property rights and cracking down on their ability to share their homes with overnight guests on a short-term basis. But the Goldwater Institute is stepping up for these homeowners—both in courtrooms and state capitols.
The right to use one’s home as one sees fit, so long as the use does not harm one’s neighbor, is a central tenet of American life. In recent years, the internet has allowed people to communicate better and connect more efficiently than ever before, which has resulted in the rise of home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway that provide an opportunity for homeowners to earn money, for travelers to have affordable and unique accommodations, and for both to stimulate local economies.
Back to the Credits and Langs: Over a year ago, the two families began battling for their right to rent. Even though neither family’s property had violated a single noise or traffic ordinance in their many years of renting out their homes, Ross Township declared both families in violation of a rule against rental of permanent residences. Though the Credits and Langs do not permanently reside at their Ross Township properties; they have used these properties for short-term rentals for decades, as many of their neighbors have done as well.
Thankfully, the Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network, our network of pro bono attorneys litigating for liberty in all 50 states, was there to help. AFN attorney Nick Curcio represents the Credits and the Langs, and thanks to Nick, these families recently won a victory in trial court affirming their right to rent. The case is now on appeal.
But Goldwater’s fight to protect homeowners’ property rights doesn’t stop in the courtroom. We’ve also authored the Home-Sharing Act, which empowers individuals to embrace the economic opportunity that comes with home-sharing while allowing local governments to address issues like noise and parking so long as they do not discriminate against vacation rentals or ban home-sharing. Nebraska passed a version of the law last year, and legislators in South Carolina and Florida have introduced similar measures this year.
These litigation and legislation successes are a testament to the fact that being able to share one’s home is not only a basic right of ownership, but makes good, commonsense economic policy. Across the country, short-term rentals enable homeowners to maintain, improve, and invest in their property. Many rely on these rentals to pay their bills and provide for their children. Particularly in a time when homeowners are struggling to make ends meet, government shouldn’t be making it even harder for Americans to earn some extra money and exercise a right they’ve literally been exercising for centuries.
Kileen Lindgren is the Legal Programs Manager at the Goldwater Institute.