Lawmakers at odds on short-term rental bill

Xavier Smith • Apr 11, 2018 at 2:24 PM

State lawmakers will likely need a conference committee to work out differences between the two chambers on a bill aimed at short-term rentals in the state.

Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, sponsor the legislation, known as the “Short Term Rental Unit Act,” which received approval in both chambers, but under different conditions.

The House version of the bill prevented local municipalities from banning future short-term rentals properties that did not feature the owner living on the property. The Senate version of the bill, approved last week, altered the language and allowed current properties to be grandfathered in if future local municipalities ban them. However, the grandfather clause would no longer apply to the property if there were a change in ownership.

The House voted Monday to reject the Senate version of the bill after many lawmakers said they felt too much power remained with municipalities to ban certain short-term rentals.

The two chambers must agree on a version of the bill before it heads to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

The Wilson County Commission approved an amendment to its zoning regulations last month that effectively treat short-term residential rentals like bed-and-breakfast establishments.

The change would require property owners who rent their properties for short-term use – less than 30 days – to follow similar guidelines as bed-and-breakfast facilities. The change applies to Airbnb, VRBO and other similar rental services.

Through Airbnb and similar services, people can list, find and rent properties for set periods of time for a fraction of the price of most hotels. Typically, renters can rent rooms at the property rather than the entire estate.   

Those properties must have an on-site caretaker or on a premises within 10 miles of the facility, as well as contact information for the property owner or caretaker.

The facilities must also submit the information to the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, building inspector’s office and Wilson County Emergency Management Agency.

Wilson County District 18 Commissioner Terry Muncher said he supported the change due to the presence of short-term property rentals in his district. Muncher said he typically gets a call every week about the establishments and could name a list of problems he’s encountered.

“One young couple brought to my attention – and I’d never thought of it. He said, ‘I have a 12-year-old daughter, and weekend to weekend, I never know who is going to be next door.’ That’s scary. I’m a parent, and that scares me,” Muncher said.

Muncher said he believes there should be more accountability for property owners who rent their properties on a short-term basis.

Wilson County Planning Department officials also discussed provisions relative to Airbnb and similar rentals in 2016 regarding noise.

Wilson County Planning Director Tom Brashear said noise complaints had increased around the time of discussion, particularly with vacation rental homes and Airbnb-style facilities.

Brashear said many of the county’s Airbnb-style properties are near the lakes, which attract people who may have business in Nashville, participate in local sporting events or want a vacation. 

Brashear said this year’s legislative action would determine how the county regulates short-term rentals.

“If this new law were passed, we would ask each operator that we receive complaints on to provide us some proof that they operated prior to that date, whatever it may be,” Brashear said.

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