Letter writer: Legalize — don’t penalize — short-term rentals

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I am a responsible landlord who owns and manages a short-term rental in the city of Asheville. Until recently, I thought I was legally providing guests with affordable lodging while they visited (and spent money) in our beautiful town. My rental is in a friendly, cooperative neighborhood of folks who, on occasion, invite my rental guests to holiday dinners, share vegetables from their gardens and engage in easy conversation with them from the front porch.

I pay my taxes, keep my property in pristine condition, and over a seven-year period, have only had one phone call from a neighbor about noise that was immediately resolved. My housekeeper and I are both retired, live primarily on what we receive from Social Security and depend on the short-term rental income. I’m quite sure that other city residents like ourselves can only afford to live in Asheville with this needed income.

I know that the members of Asheville City Council have heard from hundreds of people about their take on the pros and cons of this hotly debated issue. It seems that legalization and good regulation is a much more reasonable approach to the situation than hiring a person to seek us out and impose hefty fines.

I am sharing below an unedited, unsolicited letter that I received from a repeat guest of my short-term rental. I believe that she represents the thousands of tourists who visit and support our local businesses:

“I read about the City Council meeting online and I was devastated by the outcome. Words cannot express how sorry I am for you and the other multitude of vacation rental homeowners who have provided families like us an alternative lodging arrangement that has filled our vacation needs to the absolute fullest. I am equally sorry for us, too. The allure of Asheville has just died for us as a pivotal part of visiting stemmed from the home-away-from-home feel that was offered through the meticulous attention to detail you provided with your cabin. It was all part of the experience. It conveyed the town’s welcoming, hospitable character. Most hotels lack the charm and personal attention that rental property owners can provide. I am just livid right now.”

So, my hope is that we can elect some City Council members who bring a common-sense, thoughtful approach to legalization and smart regulation of short-term rentals in residentially zoned areas, not just downtown and commercially zoned area of the city.

— Anonymous

Editor’s note: Xpress normally does not withhold letter writers’ names. In this case, we made an exception because the writer fears the loss of a major part of his or her income, and Xpress wants to allow for a full range of discussion on this important public issue.

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8 thoughts on “Letter writer: Legalize — don’t penalize — short-term rentals

  1. OneWhoKnows

    Ok, then voters will need to avoid casting votes for any of the liberal wingnuts running for council and stick to the candidates
    with wisdom like Dr. Mumpower, John Miall and Dee Williams for diversity! We need BALANCE on City Council, not a bunch of progressive NON leaders as we have now.

    • North Asheville

      What is John Miall’s position on short term rentals?

      • NFB

        Don’t expect any substance from posts by Unaffiliated Voter….oops I mean OneWhoKnows.

  2. Patrick Conant

    To the letter writer (or others in a similar situation) – have you considered offering your property as a long-term rental? There’s a huge lack of affordable rentals in this town, and I would expect you have little trouble renting your unit at a fair rate – plus you’d be giving another local a chance to live and work in Asheville!

    If you’re only interested in short-term renting, I’m genuinely curious of the reasoning – is it due to the difference in income between LTR and STR, or are there other motivating factors?

    I’m supportive of regulated STRs, provided they pay additional taxes or fees that support our community as a whole – that way, the neighbors who deal with the impact of STRs are able to receive some benefit as well. I’d also like to see city leadership develop a strategy to incentive the use of homes by local residents – either as a primary residence or a long-term rental.

    • henry

      This comment addresses the real problem. STRs have greatly impacted affordable LTR opportunities. It’s as simple as that. STR owners what the profit from day-by-day high rental rates, don’t want any licensing, permitting or taxing, and on top of all of that want to remain totally invisible to their neighbors. This is the ultimate example of an all-for-me attitude. How many multiple STRs are owned by a distant owner that will never want any light of day to shine on his business?

  3. Jane

    The City can NOT enforce their ordinance and all their huffing and puffing about increasing fines and upping enforcement is nothing more than political appeasement for the hotel and business lobbies. Regardless of whether or not they hire a “full-time enforcement” staffer, they have no ability to retrieve rental history data from Airbnb or any other short-term rental websites. Without that data, they have nothing, no proof of any violation. After the City sends out a notice of violation (and they do so ONLY after they have received a complaint), the alleged violator is required to send back a notarized affidavit swearing that they, the homeowner, will not rent for less than 30 days. The affidavit is worthless because no-one from the City ever checks back after the affidavit is on file, and unless the renter is foolish enough to continue advertising their rental for less than 30 days using the same ad/website, the City has no way to know, let alone, prove there has been a violation. I have tried for many months to get a dangerous rental shut down, but the City accepted self-submitted rental data directly from the violator who claimed it was from Airbnb, despite that the data was very obviously manipulated/fraudulent.

    I understand this issue is very upsetting for many but in my significant experience dealing with the City on this, they have absolutely no teeth to enforce the regulation and it’s deliberately and willfully disingenuous for the City to continue riling the community when they know damn well they will never be able to enforce the regulation without a means to acquire rental history data directly from Airbnb and the other rental sites.

    • henry

      So if all the City’s efforts to at least contain the rising number of STRs is totally useless, why has the LTE writer wanted to remain anonymous? What is greatly lacking is a factual study of STRs in Asheville to particularly focus on how many are owned by live in City residents. How many are owned by far away could care less owners, who see these as simply a for profit small business? How many STRs are owned by the same business entity? Your position is that STR owners should not fear the City’s ineffectual ability to close them down. That totally avoids the fact that STRs have reduced Long Term Rental vacancy to less that 1% and drive service industry workers far outside the City, where they can least afford the commute to work.

      • Jane

        My point is that the City is full of crap, as usual. That’s my only point.

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