Guest Commentary

Bien-Willner: New tools will help protect Paradise Valley from unruly short-term rental properties

Posted 8/19/22

Pragmatic solutions. Persistence. A coalition of dedicated, determined citizens. Reasonable compromise.

These are among the principles most Arizona residents expect from our lawmaking and …

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Guest Commentary

Bien-Willner: New tools will help protect Paradise Valley from unruly short-term rental properties

Posted

Pragmatic solutions. Persistence. A coalition of dedicated, determined citizens. Reasonable compromise.

These are among the principles most Arizona residents expect from our lawmaking and legislative process. While it’s not unusual to see a fair amount of intense negotiation as people discuss important public policy measures, leaders acting in good faith can work together and ultimately build consensus that serves the greater good.

That finally happened with Senate Bill 1168, a new law signed by Gov. Doug Ducey providing tools to protect our community from unruly short-term rental properties. Getting to this positive outcome involved a dedicated coalition of residents, grassroots organizers, community leaders, law enforcement, state lawmakers, and STR industry stakeholders. Thank you to everyone who worked hard for several years to get this done.

This untenable situation between residents and STR platforms started in 2016, when Arizona passed a law that prevented local governments from restricting or regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and others.

Like many Arizona cities and towns, Paradise Valley experienced negative impacts from unregulated short-term rentals. Our police department has responded to everything from noise complaints to drug overdoses and violent criminal behavior while the STR industry continued to reap huge profits.

This new state law is a positive step forward to strengthen local control of STRs. It will help address STRs that threaten the community’s tranquility, public health, and safety while finding a balance between rental properties and the rights of residents who live near them.

But it wasn’t easy getting here.

Last year, the Town of Paradise Valley took an ambitious stand to adopt local regulations aimed at:

  •  Protecting public health and safety regarding fire and building codes, health and sanitation, transportation/traffic control, waste management and pollution control.
  •  Enforcing use and zoning ordinances including noise, protection of welfare, property maintenance and other nuisance issues.
  •  Prohibiting STRs from housing sex offenders, or operating as a sober living home, selling illegal drugs or pornography or other adult-oriented businesses
  •  Requiring owners to provide emergency contact information to both the local government and the public.

Immediately after Paradise Valley took the lead in addressing these general public safety issues, Airbnb worked with Gilbert Sen. Warren Petersen to have the Arizona Attorney General investigate our common-sense ordinances. The town’s deft legal response to the investigation prevailed and ultimately spurred lawmakers at the State Capitol to craft a statewide solution.

While this new state law isn’t perfect, it does provide communities with new tools and restores some sense of balance.

It gives local governments the authority to license STRs and, in some circumstances, suspend those permits for up to a year. These suspensions will result from:

  •  Three verified violations, or so-called “strikes,” within a 12-month period for incidents at an STR (excluded from counting as strikes are “aesthetic, solid wastes disposal or vehicle parking violation[s] that [are] not also a serious threat to public health and safety.”)
  •  One verified violation, or one “strike,” that results in the owner or their designee receiving a felony offense in the vicinity of a STR; a serious physical injury or wrongful death related to a STR; or knowingly housing a sex offender, or hosting an adult-oriented business, sexual offenses or prostitution or operating a sober living home, or hosting a special event that would otherwise require a permit under town ordinance or state law.
  •  And, any single attempted or completed felony act arising out of the use of a STR by anyone associated with it that results in actual or attempted serious physical injury will be grounds for immediate judicial relief for the suspension of the STR permit for up to 12 months.

In addition to the suspension of the license, an owner can face civil penalties up to $3,500 or an amount equal to three nights’ rent, whichever is greater.

Further, the new state law:

  •  Requires liability insurance be carried on the property
  •  Requires adjacent neighbors be given the owners’ contact information in addition to what Paradise Valley already requires for the public.

We’re optimistic that when the new law becomes effective on Sept. 24 that Paradise Valley, along with other local governments, will be able to find better success reigning in the most troublesome properties as we adopt ordinances establishing new administrative processes to issue, deny and suspend a local STR regulatory permit. We’re also grateful for the openness of state legislators involved in passing this law to consider future amendments if the new law proves insufficient, including if any loopholes are found and exploited.

The town anticipates that when these new enforcement tools become effective, we will see a significant difference as we work to bring back peaceful enjoyment of our neighborhoods that has been disturbed by STRs.

As always, we are committed to preserving our town’s status as a premier and safe residential community, and appropriately balancing the rights and interests of everyone in our beautiful town.