Scottsdale Issues & Experts forum highlights the good, bad and lewd of the short-term rental

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Short-term rentals are the topic of the season as opinions on both sides of the issue are abound.

Five local experts, ranging from a Realtor to a police chief, Wednesday, Nov. 6 provided insight into both public and private perspectives on the exuberance of vacation rentals in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.

Hosted by Independent Newsmedia --- in partnership with the Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow --- at Scottsdale Community College, the morning forum explored the impacts of Senate Bill 1350 --- also known as the AirBnB bill --- both negative and positive.

Participating in the forum were:

  • Scottsdale City Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield;
  • Realtor Greg Hague;
  • Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner;
  • Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert; and
  • Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors CEO Rebecca Grossman.

While Ms. Grossman, in her official capacity representing local real estate professionals, remained neutral on the topic, the other four panelists mostly voiced the need for some sort of change or tighter regulations when it comes to regulation of the short-term rental market.

SB 1350 restricts municipalities from regulating the short-term rentals, although a new bill, which has recently gone into effect, allows for cities and towns to require contact information and create a fee schedule for troublesome properties.

A burgeoning marketplace

While short-term rentals are growing across the Valley, stakeholders in Paradise Valley and Scottsdale are especially concerned because of the area’s reputation as a picture-perfect vacation spot --- particularly during tourist season and major events including the Super Bowl, spring training and the Phoenix Open.

While not all short-term rentals cause problems, the nuisance properties are creating a bad name for all of them, experts say.

The benefits of short-term rentals, according to Ms. Grossman, includes promoting tourism and flexibility for families with pets and children. She asked the audience how many people have stayed in a short-term rental --- a majority of the full room raised their hand.

“See, we kind of understand why there’s such a demand for our beautiful area,” Ms. Grossman said.

“Rental housing accounts for one-third of the nation’s housing market, whether it be for someone who’s buy it to rent out to someone on a permanent basis, on a one to two year lease, or short term --- that one-third is a big number.”
In addition, Ms. Grossman says half of all investment buyers purchase with the intent of renting to others.

A call for change

Mr. Hague, a longtime Valley Realtor pointed to other states that have put regulations on short-term rentals to keep the businesses from operating in quiet residential areas.

“Over the last year, we’ve sold a lot of property to people who we didn’t know why they were buying it, but we saw it turned into an AirBnB short-term rental,” Mr. Hague said in his opening remarks at the event.

“Where we see the huge problems isn’t the person who owns a home and wants to rent a room, which is what the AirBnB model is all about --- without being able to regulate investor-owned short-term rentals, communities like Scottsdale and Paradise Valley are powerless to prevent unregulated businesses with people coming in and out.”

Both Ms. Littlefield and Mr. Bien-Willner pointed to numerous emails they’ve received from their constituents --- often from homeowners neighboring short-term rentals --- that run the gamut on problems from parties and lewd behavior, to unsafe conditions to trespassing.

Mr. Bien-Willner read aloud the first listing he found online for a Paradise Valley short-term rental. The description included numerous amenities, and advertised the four-bedroom space can sleep up to 20 people.

“Here’s the interesting part --- the listing requests a minimum of 10 people, although we can accommodate up to 16 with beds. If couches are used, it’s 18-20,” Mr. Bien-Willner said. “So you wake up, and that’s your new reality.

Instead of a single-family home, you’ve got 18-20 people there for a night or two looking to enjoy the outdoor spaces, play bocce ball, have guests over.”
Chief Wingert explained the challenges that have sprouted since the passage of SB 1350, describing it as trying to swim a marathon with one arm tied behind his back.

“I don’t think we have the tools to rightly address the community problem my residents have asked me to solve,” he said.

“When you get a noise ordinance violation in Paradise Valley --- we like quiet, peaceful neighborhoods --- some of these people are paying between $900/night and $4,000/night ... the average daily rate is over $850.”

Chief Wingert says when an officer has been dispatched to a property more than once, and writes the offenders a citation for noise that ranges between $50-$250, the property owner doesn’t care.

“The bad actor will actually pay that citation for the individual who’s been cited,” Chief Wingert said, noting that noise complaints for the local police department have risen by 40% as of late.

Scottsdale Councilwoman Littlefield read allowed an email she received just days earlier, describing the environment the short term rental in her neighborhood had created.

“A woman reported 16 adults came to the AirBnB next to her and held a three-day party, 24-hours a day. At 2:30 a.m. the party goers were screaming as they came reeling home from the bars in a literal caravan of golf carts,” Ms. Littlefield said.

“One person, drunk, could barely stand as he urinated in front of the house while he watched scooter races going by on the street.”

Moreover, the woman reported seeing open-air drug use, people attempting to climb over her wall with flashlights at night because they were at the wrong property, and antagonizing the dog. Lastly, impaired driving takes place on the neighborhood streets where children play.

The forum, for the most part, articulated the uphill battle that both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley are fighting with little authority to regulate.

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