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Opposition stalls legislation blocking city efforts to regulate Airbnb rentals

Posted July 10, 2019 12:44 p.m. EDT
Updated July 10, 2019 1:20 p.m. EDT

— A bill that surfaced in the General Assembly on Wednesday morning would stop cities and counties from regulating residential rentals through sites like Airbnb, but criticism from some lawmakers forced sponsors to put the effort on hold.

Under the proposal, any city or county ordinances governing short-term or vacation rentals would be nullified. Local governments also couldn't require such rental units to be registered or inspected.

Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, said the legislation is needed because local governments are creating what he called a patchwork of different regulations on short-term rentals.

The Raleigh City Council recently approved rules for Airbnb rentals, including limiting them to two adult guests at any time and prohibiting the rental of more than two rooms in a home. The rules are set to take effect in January, and violations would bring a $500 fine.

Asheville, Nags Head and other cities across the state also have adopted restrictions on short-term rentals for zoning and public safety reasons.

Arp said the local rules are unfair to people who have invested money in properties to go into the Airbnb business.

"There are people with strongly passionate views that these are property rights issues, what you can do with your property that you own," he said.

But Rep. Stephen Ross, R-Alamance, argued neighbors of Airbnb hosts have property rights too that need to be honored. A former Burlington mayor, he called the bill "a terrible idea" that would undermine the value of zoning for single-family neighborhoods.

"It just seems to me that this is a real assault on local authority. Why are we jumping into this this way?" Ross said.

Because of opposition from other members of the House State and Local Government committee, Arp withdrew the bill before it was voted on. He said he would work with local government groups to come up with a compromise while the issue is studied further.