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Restricting short-term rentals in Nevada is playing a good hand poorly

Wiz Rouzard
Wiz Rouzard
Opinion
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Short-term renting has long offered Nevada residents the opportunity to make some extra money for themselves and their families. It can be an important source of income for many Nevadans looking to share in our state’s robust tourism and gig economy. 

It’s been a boon to visitors, too, as anyone who has ever planned a vacation with the help of one of the many short-term rental apps can attest.  

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas: A tourist can ante up on the Strip or Fremont in the afternoon and retire in the evening — or early morning, as the case may be — at a rental property far from the crowds and steep prices of the city. 

It was a good arrangement for visitors and property-owners alike. 

No dice, said the Las Vegas City Planning Commission, when in 2018 they passed an ordinance to place severe restrictions on short-term home rentals. Since then, commissioners in unincorporated Clark County — which covers the area for most property owners engaged in operating short-term rentals — have imposed an outright ban on short-term rentals with a fine of $1,000 per day for any property owners that have been found to be illegally renting out their homes or rooms for fewer than 30 days. This has led to the county levying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and placing liens on dozens of properties deemed to be in violation of the new rules. 

In some municipalities, only homeowners who live at their properties can rent out homes to tourists, but they must pay an exorbitant licensing fee and monthly “hotel tax.” For example, Henderson allows short-term rentals in residential areas, but property owners must pay an $820 licensing fee. 

In a state with a rich tourism industry, we are sabotaging our strong hand with these unnecessary regulations, a situation gamblers might call a “bad beat.” They make it more difficult for people to visit, take in the sights, and enjoy our rich history. They also make it harder for residents to earn additional income to support themselves. 

The gig economy has massively expanded opportunities in the last few years for those with extra time, goods, and services to quickly and conveniently meet the needs of countless Americans. During a time of economic crisis, gig work has allowed millions of people to earn a living, something indispensable for those unemployed or underemployed, or for those who cannot support a traditional work schedule. 

While supporters of these restrictions claim they’re necessary to reduce noise complaints in residential areas, they forget that the city has long required would-be renters to apply for a special permit before offering their homes to guests, which has reduced the number of noise violations. Moreover, there are existing local ordinances that regulate noise violations that the city should be enforcing across the valley, whether a property is a short-term or long-term rental property.  

In practice, restricting short-term rentals has merely protected established hotels from competition at the expense of smaller property owners. That is not a good enough reason to keep these bad laws on the books, and state lawmakers should pass legislation to do away with these onerous barriers. 

Lawmakers should support Senate Bill 322, introduced by Sen. Carrie Buck (R-Henderson), which would legalize short-term rentals by prohibiting cities and counties from restricting property owners’ rights to rent out their primary residence for fewer than 28 days. It would also remove the unnecessary owner-occupied requirement, allowing property owners to rent to visitors throughout our state. Renters should be able to register with a business license and pay taxes collected by local municipalities through the option of having third party platforms collect and remit them to the government. 

SB322 would also reduce the severity of the excessive fines and fees that have plagued short-term renters. Rather than slap property owners with these hefty fines as a first resort, we should give them a chance to correct course and comply with local regulations. 

That would allow more Nevadans and their families to enjoy the opportunities of the growing gig economy. And it would help more visitors to our state see what Nevada is all about.  

Wiz Rouzard is the director of grassroots operations of Americans for Prosperity-Nevada.

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