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Bill would penalize short-term rental property owners for nuisances

Airbnb removes users affiliated with rally
Posted at 9:55 PM, Apr 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-06 01:41:15-04

PHOENIX — A state law allowing short-term rentals in neighborhoods has been a cash cow for so many property owners throughout Arizona, but in some residential areas it has been nothing but a nightmare as residents are left to put up with party houses hosting bachelor parties, weddings, and other events that go late into the night.

Many of these short-term rentals are now owned by out of town investors, so it's hard to track down who to call to complain. Even police and deputies sometimes have a hard time finding a real person to talk to, when responded to noise complaints in a neighborhood.

ABC15 has heard horror stories from people in neighborhoods throughout the Valley. Some, like Mike Parker, even sold their homes and moved because they couldn't take it anymore.

"There were random strangers up against my fence all night long, getting drunk, yelling, screaming. They were parking on my rocks, right in front of my driveway so I couldn't even get in. Sometimes we'd see fireworks landing right in our yard, it was scaring dogs in the community, they were barking all night long," Parker said.

RELATED: Homeowners look to stop rowdy rental neighbors next door

In another part of the Valley, Charles Santangelo reached out to ABC15 equally as frustrated with an Airbnb in his neighborhood.

"Between the traffic all night long, the music, the litter, the public urination. You name it, we dealt with it," said Santangelo.

In the historic North Encanto neighborhood, residents were skeptical to hear about another home being sold off to an out-of-state investor who planned to turn it into a short term rental, after having a bad experience with existing short term rentals in their community.

Regina Graybill described what some of her neighbors dealt with whenever the rentals had guests.

"Sometimes they're up until 2 [or] 4 in the morning, throwing out trash and just making life miserable for everyone," said Graybill.

A look at the Airbnb website revealed at least nine short-term rentals in the historic North Encanto community.

When a neighbor informed them of plans to sell her home to a California investor, several neighbors reached out to the neighbor and the prospective buyer to get more information and voice concerns.

That is when at least two of them were slapped with a lawsuit from the MacQueen and Gottlieb law firm, threatening a lawsuit for "harassment." The letter also asked them to stop posting negative comments on social media and to remove signs from their property opposing an Airbnb in their neighborhood.

"They're asking us to remove our own yard signs? I'm sorry that's a First Amendment right," said Amanda Bass, an attorney who lived in the neighborhood.

Regina Graybill said she was outraged to hear about the legal threats.

"I just think that's terrible. They're using specious arguments to get people to shut up. That's not right."

Patrick MacQueen is the attorney representing the seller. In an interview with ABC15 earlier this year, MacQueen said his firm got many calls about nuisance Airbnb rentals and that he would not want to live next door to one either.

Reached again for this story, MacQueen said while he was sympathetic to concerns expressed by neighbors, but because of "aggressive" behavior shown toward representatives of the California investor, the company had decided to back out of the deal, and that had cost the seller a lot of money.

"My thinking is they should have given this buyer a shot. This neighbor may have been the best neighbor to run an Airbnb or a short term rental. We just don't know," said MacQueen.

North Encanto residents are now voicing support for House Bill 2672, proposed by state Rep. John Kavanaugh, a Republican who represents Fountain Hills, part of Scottsdale and rural parts of northeast Maricopa County. The bill would crack down on so-called "party house" players in the industry.

"It's extremely difficult to enforce against these disruptive houses, especially if the owner isn't there. Who do you give the summons to? It's really difficult," Rep. Kavanaugh said.

Right now, you will see that every home listed on short term rental sites like Airbnb specifically state "no parties allowed," but if you read further the property owners then go on to describe the home as a "perfect venue for weddings." Testimonials from those who've stayed in the homes also read "we had the best bachelor party in this home." The reviews are a clear indication that parties frequently happen in these homes despite the "no parties" disclaimer.

"It's just a nuisance, that's what it is," said Graybill.

Kavanaugh said short-term rentals were also leading to a shortage of affordable homes in some tourist communities like Sedona. House Bill 2672 would fine property owners who were a "nuisance" and the amount would grow with every violation.

The bill would also require property owners to include a contact name and phone number on each listing so it would be easy for police or homeowners to contact someone in case of a problem.

You can read the language of the bill and all proposed amendments here.

State officials say the bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate, ready to head to the rules committee then onto a full vote soon.