Short-term Rentals, Long-term Questions
Turning primary or secondary homes into assets by renting them out via AirBNB or VRBO has become very popular. It also often conflicts with local zoning regulations banning or limiting such practices. When a similar debate—technological changes versus old laws—emerged with Uber and Lyft a decade ago, I unambiguously took the side of Uber and Lyft because the existing regulations were rank protectionism for the taxi companies. The short-term rental question is trickier.
The debate over municipal limits on renting out your own property is happening all over Missouri, but most immediately in Lake Ozark and the City of St. Louis. In Lake Ozark, which currently bans short-term rentals in much of the city, the city council is voting Tuesday night on amending the zoning laws and allowing short-term rentals in certain parts of the city. I am opposed to municipalities having a comprehensive ban on short-term rentals. In a tourism-driven area like the Lake, it makes even less sense to have an outright ban.
The arguments for allowing short-term rentals are that: (a) you have right to rent out your own property if you wish to (b) allowing more rental options is good for the tourism industry and local economy; and (c) complaints about the rentals are often overblown, and police or regulators can handle such problems as they arise.
I agree with all of that—but even if you believe with all your heart that zoning violates property rights, the courts have decided that zoning is legal. So, if zoning regulations where you live say you can’t rent out your property, you may need a better argument. Point (b) is hard to dispute, and while point (c) is also true in my opinion, I understand why homeowners next door to the property that is the exception—with lots of parties, noise, crime, etc.—may want their city to take more proactive action.
The legitimate arguments against allowing short-term rentals are also straightforward. Too many of them do involve large parties and general mayhem. More importantly, one has to have sympathy for the property rights of the people who bought a home or condo under existing zoning laws that limited or prohibited such rentals, and are now seeing people trying to change (or governments ignoring) those laws. I support allowing short-term rentals, but I won’t be cavalier about the property investments people made with the understanding such things are not allowed.
It’s a tough issue. I think short-term rentals should be allowed in a tourist area like Lake Ozark (and the entire Lake region), but I understand that limits and rules may be necessary. In more residential locations, tighter limits may be appropriate. However you look at it, this issue isn’t going away in Missouri anytime soon.
I’ll be writing more soon on the role homeowners associations can play in this issue and how short-term rentals should be taxed.