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Rocky Top Spiraling Down A Rocky Slope

BY HANNAH COX

April 12, 2017 10:29AM

We hate to say I told you so, but boy did we call it. Knoxville is now considering an ordinance that would ban the majority of non-owner occupied short-term rental properties (otherwise known as services such as Airbnb and VRBO). Since the legislation was announced a few days ago, we’ve heard from countless residents fearful of losing their retirement savings, income streams, or the homes that their Airbnb businesses fund.

This type of attack on property rights is unfortunately nothing new and something we have been combatting in the courts and calling attention to for over a year. Constitutional violations of this nature have become so commonplace that many Tennesseans (including us) began calling for a state preemption bill that would prevent cities from trampling on the property rights of homeowners.

Proponents of such legislation got their wish this session with a bill that is currently working its way through the Tennessee General Assembly. We have spoken out in support of this bill as it has become painfully obvious that many cities are incapable of regulating short-term rental properties constitutionally.

Though we supplied a helpful list of regulations that would protect all property owners while not infringing on the rights of some, our suggestions have largely fallen on deaf ears. Cities including Nashville and Knoxville have instead opted for sweeping and damaging regulations that punish everyone instead of seeking out bad actors.

A bit of research into Nashville’s complaints found that only a handful of houses that functioned as short-term rental properties received multiple complaints. Most of these complaints were for things that are already illegal, like trash and noise violations. However, instead of revoking the permit for these properties or fining the owners incrementally for each violation, Nashville too tried to limit non-owner occupied homesharing options.

Knoxville’s actions prove our many warnings to be true as they become just another in a long line of cities who have failed to address this situation properly. It’s really quite a shame that cities can’t be counted on to protect the rights of their citizens, resulting in costly lawsuits and legislation that also hurt all taxpayers. This is why it is absolutely necessary that the legislature passes a preemption bill and permanently protect the property rights of all of our citizens.