INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana’s cities and towns wouldn’t be allowed to put their own restrictions
on companies such as Airbnb under a proposal state lawmakers are considering
as they wade into the parochial matters of property rights and zoning
services such as Airbnb are considered by some to be an innovative way to
make extra cash, but neighbors aren’t always as enthused. As the emerging
“short-term rental” market has grown, so too have local restrictions in
cities across the U.S., including New Orleans, Chicago, New York and
Nashville, not to mention several places in Indiana.
The bill, which is
similar to a law enacted in Arizona, is just the latest example of the
Indiana Legislature’s Republican majority - a party that often extolls the
virtue of local control - considering a measure that would tie the hands of
local government. The House has already approved it, and it cleared a Senate
committee on Wednesday.
The bill’s author,
Republican Rep. Matt Lehman, of Berne, says it’s important to stop knee-jerk
government regulation that would restrict anyone’s ability to “use our
private property for what we want to use it for.”
“We are simply
saying that if you own one of these, a local government cannot prohibit a
short-term rental,” said Lehman, who added that local authorities can crack
down on problem renters through other means, such as building, noise and
While the bill
restricts what local government can do, it does include a yearly 180-day cap
on rentals. Homeowners associations are exempt and could still ban or limit
members’ abilities to rent out their homes.
A litany of people
opposing the bill, including outraged neighbors and small town officials,
voiced their distaste during a hearing Wednesday.
“Imagine having a
resort or hotel placed right in the middle of your neighborhood,” said James
Reeder, police chief of the Lake Michigan beach town, Ogden Dunes.
He described a
nightmare scenario of “loud drunken parties, fireworks all night” and even a
group of “intoxicated” bachelorette partygoers wielding “blown up adult
toys.” These types of incidents were commonplace at short-term rentals until
local officials stepped in, he said.
small-government Republican orthodoxy suggests many public policy issues are
best addressed at the local level, Indiana’s GOP majorities have a track
record that can run counter to that.
Last year, as
Bloomington debated a ban on plastic shopping bags, the Legislature passed a
bill prohibiting local governments from instituting such a ban. Property tax
caps, which were implemented in recent years, also have a similar effect,
taking away a source of local source revenue often counted on for school
funding. Even Indiana’s religious objections law, which was changed after it
ignited a firestorm of national criticism, was initially intended to
circumvent local governments such as Indianapolis that passed
anti-discrimination ordinances protecting gay people.
But supporters of
the short-term rental measure say many opponents’ fears are overblown.
Catherine Lacrosse, of Indianapolis, says she’s never had a problem with
guests who stay at three properties she rents on Airbnb.
“We can turn down
guests, we can monitor them and we can ding them if there is a violation,”
said Lacrosse. “I’ve rented 577 nights to-date and I haven’t had a single
Jerry Torr, an outspoken opponent of the bill, represents the wealthy
Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, which has tried to crack down on short-term
“It’s one thing to
rent to somebody the week of the (Indianapolis) 500, or some kind of special
event,” Torr said, but cities should have recourse if an absentee owner
rents out their property a good portion of the year.
zoning, which includes renting restrictions, for the most part should be
left up to local control.”
Still, in Carmel, a
city of almost 90,000, only 30 properties are up for rent on Airbnb,
according to the company.
“I think it’s
‘stranger danger,’” said Lacrosse, who has a neighbor who doesn’t like her
renting out. “People want to know that their neighbors are similar to them
and if somebody is coming in who is not similar, maybe it gets them