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Private Property Limits: Localities Consider Home-Sharing Rules

Apps like Airbnb make short-term rentals easier and affordable, so why mess with a good thing?

I know several people who have used Airbnb in the past and they have loved it. It's easy, convenient, and much more affordable than hotels. As much as consumers and homeowners seem to love the idea, there are (predictably) the ever-benevolent agents of the State who want to "protect" us from a perceived issue.

Many American localities are attempting to either heavily regulate or ban home-sharing in their jurisdictions. My own city is attempting to do this right now, and plenty of residents are speaking their mind on the issue. Because of the degree of controversy surrounding the local vote on limitations to using one's own property, the vote on home-sharing regulations was postponed by 60 days.

Yeah, it's that big of an issue here in the Virginia Beach area — a big tourist destination.

Some residents claim that the amount of home-sharing rentals is causing disturbances in their communities, and that's certainly a valid concern. But do we always need to resort to government force when it comes to issues in our communities, especially when those issues involve a person's ability to provide for their family?

Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur says that localities must not restrict their residents' ability to rent out their own properties, a transaction that is a core part of the American dream and has been for well over a century. In the attached video, she advocates for state governments passing preemption laws that prohibit the subdivisions doing so.

No good deed goes unpunished, and cities across the country are responding to these innovations by outlawing home-sharing outright. Fortunately, there's a solution. The Goldwater Institute drafted a model policy called the Home Sharing Act, and the Home Sharing Act is a very simple state reform.

It says that cities ought to focus on the things that they do best: protecting quiet, clean, and safe neighborhoods by using the nuisance laws that they already have on the books; but the cities cannot outlaw home-sharing outright. People are then able to use their property as they see fit, and exercise one of the most fundamental rights of all: the right to private property.

Arizona adopted one of these laws, and there is now a balance between property-owners' interests, and the interests of the rest of the community in having cleanliness and safety. Other states can model this kind of proposal; Virginia is one of them, and that's part of why the issue is so contentious here.

The General Assembly is considering a bill that would prohibit Virginia Beach and other localities from enacting restrictions on home-sharing, such as the permit system that Virginia Beach is considering.

There is a proper balance that can be achieved here. Home-owners have the right to use their property as they see fit if they are not disturbing the peace. Plenty of local ordinances are already on the books that establish rules for neighborhood peace and safety. We don't have to resort to more regulations that only make life more difficult for those who rely on home-sharing for another source of income.