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Short-term rentals need regulating

Linda Riegle
Linda Riegle
Opinion
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In response to the recent opinion piece by Wiz Rouzard of Americans for Prosperity, I offer some alternative points of view after many discussions with my neighbors.

First of all, all occupants of private property are generally entitled to the “quiet enjoyment” of that property which includes safety and security. As a homeowner, having different neighbors every weekend does not equal safety and security. People come to Las Vegas to party and enjoy all that Las Vegas has to offer. All of us who live in Las Vegas or Reno know that we live in a town that offers the tourist experience. However, when we bought or rented our homes outside the designated tourist corridor, we could be assured that we weren’t living next to a hotel and were living in a residential neighborhood. 

Zoning laws have always been deemed important tools. Short-term rentals ignore this, and allowing them in effect allows rezoning without the protections offered in such a process. As people who live in a neighborhood in which there are numerous short-term rentals (some advertising that they house as many as 39 people and 500 guests) that have been illegally operating for more than a year, we can attest to the fact that short-term rentals have inexorably altered that covenant. 

Now parents in the neighborhood need to worry about their children meeting strangers; continuous and often dangerous traffic flows through the neighborhood at all hours; loud celebrations with pumping music continue throughout the night; fireworks are lit for events; limos arrive with guests for bachelor parties; and large trash containers are constantly out on the street. These homes are not ones in which an individual wishes to rent out the property while on a brief vacation, or to subsidize income. Rather, they were bought and/or modified specifically for the purpose of using them for short term-rentals.

It is our local government that is most accessible to us and which is responsible for the “health, safety and welfare” of its residents. That means affording people who live in residential neighborhoods the right to quiet enjoyment of their property — and not having a veritable hotel, which requires an entirely different zoning category, to exist right next door. It is also our local government that has to respond to the complaint calls at midnight. It should be compensated for such services through permit fees — the average homeowner should in no way be responsible for those costs through property taxes.

Mr. Rouzard appears to believe that people (or more likely, corporations) who use their homes as short-term rentals should not be subject to the hotel tax that applies to all other transient lodging. Why on earth not? Those taxes pay the cost of global advertising to attract the very guests to whom they want to rent their home. They also pay for Raiders Stadium. They also pay for police protection, education and parks. If you’re going to turn your house into a hotel, why on earth should you get a free ride on the back of the industry that employs and provides good wages and benefits to hundreds of thousands of Nevadans? Why should residents have to cover the cost of protecting and cleaning up neighborhoods where short-term rentals are popping up left and right?

We all know there’s a housing boom underway in Clark County. The cost of housing is simply out of reach for many citizens. As corporations buy up hundreds of Southern Nevada homes for the sole purpose of using them as short-term rentals, fewer homes are available for people looking to move into a larger place to accommodate a growing family. Again, many of these short-term rentals are not owned by mom, pop and grandma just trying to earn a few hundred dollars. These are large corporations in business to make a profit. They have highly paid lobbyists and contribute to groups such as the one Mr. Rouzard writes for. It is ridiculous to suggest that such companies should not be regulated to the same extent as our resorts and hotels which provide safety for guests, clean the premises to a high standard and are inspected by licensing agents in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees and guests.

Mr. Rouzard states that “In a state with a rich tourism industry, we are sabotaging our strong hand with these unnecessary regulations…” But that same industry is governed by literally thousands of pages of regulations, which have been necessary and have worked well to protect public health, safety and welfare — and by which the industry happily abides. The short-term rental industry, as Rouzard clearly illustrates, has zero regard for the outright ban on such properties in Clark County, and as a result, it’s the average Nevada taxpayer who has shouldered the cost of protecting residents from these illegal businesses. 

We believe short-term rental corporations should be banned entirely from buying homes in areas which are zoned residential. If rezoning is allowed, short-term rentals must at least be relegated to specific areas, as they are in other communities. There also must be a strict annual permit process with the teeth to enable enforcement of regulations. Additionally, the guest capacity for short-term rentals should be limited to no more than 12; there should be a prohibition on large gatherings; and there should be limitations on the number of permits issued to any given entity (and related entities). Finally, short-term rental owners should be required to adhere to the same health and safety standards imposed upon hotels, and pay all lodging taxes imposed upon hotels.

Linda Riegle has lived and worked in Clark County since 1978 and has lived in her present neighborhood since 1986.

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