by Christina Sandefur

May 15, 2018

Across the country, local governments are taking steps to ban “home-sharing” or impose rules that unreasonably restrict homeowners’ freedom of choice. But home-sharing – allowing a guest to stay overnight in one’s house in exchange for money – is nothing new. The only thing that’s changed is that the internet has enabled homeowners and travelers to connect better than ever before, through online platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway. To crack down on this centuries-old practice simply because the market innovations have made it more efficient undermines property rights without actually keeping communities safe.

Fortunately, states standing up for homeowners and pushing back against this local overreach.

Arizona led the way in 2016, passing landmark legislation that protects home-sharing statewide. That law ensures that cities focus on their most vital jobs—protecting quiet, clean, and safe neighborhoods by preventing homeowners and their guests from committing nuisances, trespassing on others’ property, having raucous parties, or clogging up the streets with traffic —without needlessly and arbitrarily discriminating against homeowners who offer their homes as short-term rentals.

Arizona’s law has provided important protections to homeowners across the Grand Canyon State, and the Goldwater Institute has been monitoring cities to ensure they respect home-sharers’ rights. Recently, our work calling out the City of Sedona for unlawfully imposing discriminatory regulations on home-sharing spurred an ongoing investigation by Arizona’s Attorney General.

Following Arizona’s success, several states have introduced similar measures to protect responsible home-sharing. Indiana passed a law protecting home-sharing statewide, prohibiting cities from banning short-term rentals in a homeowner’s primary residence, and allowing cities to require permits for other short-term rentals.

Tennessee fell short of preventing cities from outlawing home-sharing, but thanks to the work of our friends at Beacon Impact, the legislature took an important step to protect home-sharers against future regulation, passing a law that shields homeowners who were lawfully renting their homes from new anti-home-sharing ordinances.

There is still work to be done. Lawmakers in Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachusetts took steps in the opposite direction, introducing bills that would threaten or gut property rights. Fortunately, as of this writing, those measure have not become law. In Florida, although homeowners gathered in Tallahassee to demand that state lawmakers protect their rights from overreaching cities, bills introduced in both the Florida House and Senate ultimately failed to make it across the finish line.

Meanwhile, the Goldwater Institute is standing up for homeowners in court across the country. We’re continuing to fight Chicago’s confusing, draconian, and unconstitutional anti-home-sharing ordinance alongside our partners at the Liberty Justice Center. And we’ve filed a brief in support of homeowners in the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s challenge to Austin, Texas’s anti-home-sharing regulations that restrict the number and activity of guests of short-term (but not long-term) rentals, subject home-sharers to warrantless searches, and completely ban homeowners from offering their home as a short-term rental if the home isn’t their primary residence.

States interested in protecting homeowners’ rights and obviating the need for future litigation should consider adopting a law based on the Goldwater Institute’s model. We will continue to fight for the rights of responsible homeowners nationwide, pursuing reforms that focus on protecting quiet, clean, and safe neighborhoods, instead of limiting choices, hindering tourism and economic growth, and depriving people of the rights—and the incentives—to use their property as they see fit.

Christina Sandefur is Executive Vice President of the Goldwater Institute.