Tuesday, May 26, 2015 | 63 comments

St. George Shutting Down Airbnb Providers


Editor’s note: The following is a lightly edited interview with Stephen Palmer, a St. George resident who has been renting out his basement on Airbnb. The comments in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of Libertas Institute.

Libertas Institute: Can you explain for our readers what services like Airbnb and VRBO are and why you decided to participate with Airbnb?

Stephen Palmer: They’re a platform that allows you to rent out a part of a house, or your whole house even, to travelers. If people are familiar with Uber and Lyft, it’s like that but for houses. Uber and Lyft allow you to rent out your car essentially, or just give people rides. You can do the same thing with your house with Airbnb. If you’ve got a spare bedroom, you can rent it out for $30 or $40 a night. It saves people money when they would be spending $80 or $90 in a hotel.

LI: Why did you decide to start doing it?

SP: Well, we have a big enough house. We have three levels and we just brought our kids up to the main level, so we have a whole basement with two bedrooms—it’s a full 1,500 square foot basement with two bedrooms and a bathroom. It’s just a perfect setup. We also have side parking, so none of our neighbors even had any clue we were doing this (not that that would matter) because they park on the side and they walk around back to a keyed entry in the basement. Most of the time we never even see our guests. 

LI: How long have you been doing Airbnb, and have you ever had complaints from neighbors or anybody else?

SP: We started in December of last year (2014) and have never once had a complaint. Like I said, nobody even knows we’re doing it.

LI: You’ve been operating for some time without any complaints. Can you explain the letter you received in the mail a week or so ago?

SP: It came from the city code enforcement officer and it says that we are in violation of two city codes. The main one is an ordinance that prohibits short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods, unless it’s in a specific zone or there has been an exception made. And the other ordinance is for a business license, which is not as big of a deal. It irks, but we could have gotten a business license. But as it is, we’re just shut down.

LI: The letter was just a warning, is that correct?

SP: It says on the top that it’s a “courtesy notice,” which is kind of funny given that it has the threat of force behind it. But yeah, no fines have been imposed—yet. The letter was dated on the 12th and we have until the 26th to comply. The letter said, “I was in your neighborhood and noticed this violation,” which is patently not true. Even if he had been in our neighborhood, he would not have been able to drive by our house and say, “oh, this guy’s doing Airbnb.” So that was just a mistruth. They just tracked us down on the website.

And then he says that they are going to show up again and see if we are still in violation. I don’t know how that’s going to work. What are they going to do, knock on my door? But we have until the 26th to comply. Otherwise, fines will be levied. It’s backed by a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail. 

LI: That raises the next question: do you intend to comply?

SP: I don’t know yet. My wife and I are both really struggling with it. That would be the easiest thing. I see a range: on one end of the scale is complying, shutting down, and moving on with our lives. We’re making anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 a month. So, in the low end, complying with this is going to lose us $12,000 a year. So that’s one end of the scale.

The opposite end of the scale would be to take it all the way through non-violent resistance—don’t pay the fines, don’t comply, let them slap me with a class C misdemeanor, let them come up and arrest me, and just show them the absurdity of the law. I don’t know if I’m prepared to do that. I’m leaning towards complying because the honest truth is, who has time for this? I have to make a living; I don’t have time to mess with this garbage. I don’t know. It’s up in the air. 

Another strategy would be to not comply and just pay the fines and see how far that takes me. 

LI: Would it be financially viable for you to continue to operate and pay the fines? Obviously you would be earning less money, but does that still provide for a viable operation?

SP: No. As I understand it, the fine is $25 a day, so that comes up to about $750 a month. We put a lot of time and effort into this—cleaning the basement every single time we have new guests (most people are staying two nights, so there is a lot of turnover). To make $250 to $300 a month would just not be worth it. Could we absorb the fine? Yeah. But it just wouldn’t be profitable to do so. It would be a waste of time.

LI: As a homeowner looking for another stream of income to support your family, and participating in a service that has yielded no complaints, how did you feel when you received that letter? How do you feel now about the predicament you find yourself in?

SP: Honestly, weak and powerless. What can I do? The mayor lives two doors down from me and he never had any clue. I’ve had a few conversations with him about it. I’m also friends with one of the city council members; I’ve also had conversations with her. It’s pretty apparent to me that I’m fighting a losing battle. I don’t have a lot of hope that I can get the ordinance changed.

It’s frustrating… It’s beyond frustrating. I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m technically a criminal and I haven’t done anything wrong. People say, “well, you broke the law,” but, really, what did I do wrong? Whose rights have I violated? Where is the victim? Laws like this create victimless crimes, and that is hard to swallow. 

LI: Why do you suspect that this ordinance was created to begin with?

SP: When we talked to the city councilwoman and the mayor, they cited two reasons: the first is that they’ve had problems in the past and the second is the possibility of future problems. Let’s take each of these in turn.

If it’s existing problems, okay, what have those problems been? Councilman Randall cited to me the last complaint they got, which was someone who had a vacation rental that they didn’t live in and they were renting out the whole home. There were thirty people in the home at the same time and they were partying late into the night. To this I say, the crime wasn’t that they had a short-term vacation rental—the crime was that people broke the noise ordinances which, I agree, violates the rights of others. But there are already laws on the books for noise ordinances, so they should enforce the existing laws. There’s no need for a redundant layer of bureaucracy to handle specific, very rare problems, because you already have ordinances that could take care of those.

So, enforce the noise ordinances. If there are parking issues, enforce those; if there are noise issues, enforce those. Take care of the issues as they arise, because the fact to the matter is that for every one instance that you can cite like that, there are countless other nights in hundreds of other vacation rentals where nobody even knows anyone is even there. You’re making these broad, wide-sweeping ordinances to handle a handful of knuckle-heads. I agree that there can be existing problems. But again, keep the main thing the main thing. What is the crime? What is the offense? What is the violation? Deal with those.

And then the second thing: potential problems. Why would we make laws based on potentials problems? When I spoke to the mayor, at first he was playing politician and beating around the bush and wouldn’t give me a straight answer. I was trying to get the lay of the land and figure out how he felt about it. He said, “well this is the law,” and I said I know this is the law, but I’m wondering how you feel about it. And when pressed he finally said, “I would not want to live in a neighborhood of short-term vacation rentals.” Okay, but are you willing to put a gun to your neighbor’s head to enforce that? To enforce your aesthetic preference of what you want in your neighborhood? Where is this even happening? It’s an absurd concern because it’s not happening. You don’t have investors coming in in droves buying up all the real estate in St. George and turning whole neighborhoods into vacation rentals. It’s just a ridiculous thing to even consider.

LI: Would you agree that because of your self-interest in your home, your family, and your children inside that home, you are far more responsible in regards to any potential actual issues with your tenants than your neighbors or the city code enforcement officer might be?

SP: That’s exactly right. I’m glad you brought that up. That’s the other reason why, if you don’t even go beyond this superficial issue, the ordinance does not work for its stated intended purposes. When you read the letter, it says, “St. George residents have consistently expressed that clean, well-maintained residential neighborhoods, commercial districts, and agricultural areas are a high priority. Maintaining these areas has proven to increase property values, provide a higher standard of living, and promote community pride.” So, that is the stated intended purpose of this ordinance that prevents short-term rentals. What it ignores is what you just said: we have every incentive—we have an invested interest—in making sure that our property is appealing to our guests.

In fact, we invested over $2,000 in home improvements before we even listed our property on Airbnb. If the point is to make sure that we have clean, well-maintained neighborhoods, then they ought to explicitly allow short-term rentals because if that’s the purpose, that’s how they are going to incentivize people to boost their property values and improve their homes. 

And along those lines, I had an interesting conversation with the mayor on an unrelated issue, but it gives you insight into this mentality. When talking to the mayor—and I’m not taking bad about the mayor personally, he is a friend of mine and I like him personally; we just happen to have different views on politics—he said this to me: “One thing to remember is that when we move to cities we typically expect more services. We also typically expect more rules and regulations like zoning and setbacks. Those are tradeoffs, I guess, for the benefits of living in a closely knit community.” Essentially the claim is that rules and regulations are what provide for closely knit communities.

I don’t know how else to say it other than I am baffled at that perspective. Order is not the same thing as a closely knit community. You might have curb and gutter, you might have nicely trimmed green lawns, but does that make for a closely knit community? In my crazy idealistic way of thinking, what makes for a closely knit community is people loving and serving each other.

I’ll give you a scenario: you have an 80-year-old widow who can no longer take care of her yard and it starts growing weeds and dying. What are you going to have in this “closely knit community” that is driven by rules and regulations and all these tradeoffs for the benefits of supposed order? You would have the code enforcement officer show up and cite her and tell her she needs to clean up her lawn or else she would be fined. In a true closely knit community, the neighbors would show up and say, “Agnes, what can we do to help?” And they would cut the lawn, they would take care of the yard, and they would have a relationship with her. This idea that rules and regulations make for a closely knit community thoroughly confuses me. I don’t get it. The fact is that our community is based on a vast web of intricate, minute, little ordinances down to the height of a fence you can build.

LI: With all these rules and regulations, going back to what you said a minute ago, do you think that the cost, the time, and the burden to fight them serves as a deterrent to change them? Do laws like this remain on the books because people like you who disagree with them have a natural disincentive to fight because of the costs, in terms of both time and money? 

SP: That’s just the thing. Who has the time to deal with this? And not only the time, who has the stomach to deal with the bureaucrats? I don’t know if I do. That’s what I’m weighing. 

LI: Let’s say you were to speak before the city council and were able to address the individuals who created and are enforcing this code, what message would you want to convey to them? 

SP: First and foremost I would acknowledge that property rights are a tough issue to deal with. I understand that. I struggle with this myself. I wouldn’t really identify myself as a hardcore libertarian who believes in absolute property rights. I went to a city council meeting last week and you sit there and look at the issues that they deal with and in the really complex matters you start realizing that it’s a hard issue. I understand that it’s complex; I understand that it’s easy to have abstract hardcore principles, but in practice things get sticky.

I think it comes down to two principles. First, we have defaulted to force in nearly every matter because it is the convenient, simple, and fast way to go. If there is ever a question, if there is every a sticky issue, we say let’s just force it. That’s the simplest way to deal with it. That’s our default mode and I would call it the water that fish swim in: it’s become so default in America that we don’t even question the water in which we swim. This idea that if there is ever a problem, just imposing force immediately is the default. I’d say I don’t have all the answers, but if there is ever a question then our default should automatically be toward freedom. Less force, more freedom. And then we could deal with issues as they arise, understanding that there would be issues. That’s the nature of the beast and that’s what makes for a true community—we work things out together. So number one, as a principle, as a general rule, let’s default toward freedom.

Second, let’s be extremely, extremely careful about creating victimless crimes. Any time you create an ordinance that has the potential to turn people into criminals when they haven’t violated anybody’s rights, that’s a problem. I’ve really done my best to try and see all sides of this. What I can’t get over is that I haven’t done anything wrong; I haven’t harmed anyone. Where is the victim? Where is the objective, demonstrable, measurable harm that I have inflicted on another person?


61 comments
Karissa
Karissa

If the city can enforce basic city ordinances then they should not be able to bully and harass at higher levels. If a temporary tenant is violating a law or rule, ticket and charge the tenant. The Landlord is ultimately responsible for the management of the property, but it is the actual tenant breaking parking, noise and other ordinances, not the homeowner. I believe these temporary places are a great opportunity for everyone involves provided there are proper and reasonable rules/ ordinances in place and effectively enforced. Obviously we don't want people who want to come in with wanton disregard for anything, breaking all the rules and causing problems...that is not our target market so increasing our screening efforts before accepting renters would help, but these nosy neighbors who simply don't like it or have nothing better to do than stir up trouble need to also be put into proper place. The AirBNB-VRBO systems work when they work together with the landlord to screen potential renters. When they do that, there is little to no problem...just the bored neighbors with nothing better to do than complain.

guest17
guest17

Great content and super writing style.. We in Wayne County are dealing also..  

utahsouth
utahsouth

I sent letters to each of the st george city council June 8. I have heard back from Jimmy Hughes who sounded some what positive. He did mention the complaints from neighbors of homes that are rented out overnight and contain out of order renters. But also realized that the airbnb model would not have this problem. He said he would study the issue and particiapte in the July work meeting. 

huckabubble
huckabubble

@utahsouth What in the world makes you think 'that the airbnb model would not have this problem'?? Google 'airbnb calgary,' 'airbnb orgy,' 'airbnb palm springs,' 'airbnb point loma,' etc. 

utahsouth
utahsouth

@huckabubble @utahsouth  I did a google search on 'airbnb palm springs' and managed to find a case where a 30 day renter of a home refused to leave until evicted. on 'airbnb orgy" i found cases where homes or apartments have been used for illegal activity. In each case it was where the home owner was not present but rented out the entire home or apartment. My idea of the airbnb model is where a home owner rents out a bedroom in his home and provides breakfast for his guest and lives in the bed and breakfast. He or she is present in the home where the bedroom is rented. . The presence a home owner in his home would seem to preclude most of the abuses many people fear.

utahsouth
utahsouth

@huckabubble @utahsouth Searching St George for July 8 i found 45 listings. 9 for entire place, 34 for private room and 2 shared room. I personally would like a conditional use permit for an "in-home bed and breakfast" where owner lives in home. The city would inspect as they do for apartment rentals. They would check for parking or other conditions. If complaints are made against the owner then his conditional use permit could be revoked. Owners can check prospective renters on the airbnb site for the guest's references and decide if they want to rent to a guest or not.

utahsouth
utahsouth

I attended the St George city council meeting last Thursday (June 4) and listened to Stephen as he addressed the council members. He told of his desire to be able to offer paying guests an overnight place to stay in his home. Mayor Pike scheduled a working meeting with Stephen and the cty council on July 9 to discuss that possibility. 

We talked after the meeting and thought that inviting our previous guests and others to write a letter to each city council member might be helpful. In that letter they could express their desire for St George to allow bed and breakfast locations more widely throughout the city.. The council has 5 members and if a majority agree that a bed and breakfast home business should be allowed, it is possible they will move forward with a change in the rules regarding this opportunity.

utahsouth
utahsouth

I think it would be productive to meet sometime soon and have some discussions on what we can do to make St George a BandB friendly city. Anyone have a place? time? We could meet in the library or other place. Who is willing to come to a meeting and participate?  give me a buzz if so.. Utahsouth@gmail.com is my email.

StephenPalmer
StephenPalmer

@utahsouth I will be reading a statement to the mayor and city council at the next city council meeting on Thursday, June 4th  at 5 p.m. 

utahsouth
utahsouth

@StephenPalmer @utahsouth I hope we can get as many BnB supports there as possible. Do you have a list of those interested? I know of a few. Can you email me at utahsouth@gmail.com??

Bronson
Bronson

Why is it that no one wants to take responsibility for their actions in our generation?  We are among a society that blames the government for everything but will never acknowledge when they themselves are in the wrong.  We all have things that drive us nuts about laws, ordinances, or restrictions, but these are the things that allow us to have such a beautiful city, state, and country.  Don't get me wrong, I don't like big government and I agree that in some ways the government has too much power, but we should still take responsibility when we break a law or ordinance.  It's one thing to try and change an ordinance or a law, but it is an entirely different thing to say that "you didn't do anything wrong."  Attorneys then fuel the fire by telling criminals (Not referring to Mr Palmer) that they are the victims and that they should be compensated.  It's like the burglars that have sued the people that they were robbing and won.  Let's all try and contribute to society a little more by having a little more respect for government and the laws that protect us.

JaredGreen
JaredGreen

@Bronson This govt. will eventually take everything you have including your children and put you in a box car or reeducation camp and it will be legal. 

If you don't like big govt quit respecting it.     NO law should violate the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the original U.S. Constitution.   American pacifism is weakness where in we will be conquered.    


We are not obligated morally to obey any unconstitutional law.    Read up on Jury Nullification not that we ever have juries that know what that is anymore. 


Americans are dangerously ignorant.

utahsouth
utahsouth

@JaredGreen Yes.. lets grab our pitchforks and torches and march on city hall.. that will send a message.


carpenterlaw
carpenterlaw

@Bronson I do not advocate for breaking the law, I advocate that if the code enforcement is going to conduct a sweep, spend countless hours surfing ads on the web, and send notices of violations with threats of fines, they better follow ALL of the rules including service, the requirements in the notice, clear instructions on peoples right to have a hearing, an explanation for the basis of their belief, and everything that is required to be done pursuant to the code. In addition, if a criminal citation or class B misdemeanor is involved, the standard of proof adopted in the hearing for code enforcement violation is unconstitutional, it should be clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt.  In addition, many people are being harassed that have complied or attempted to comply and have been threatened with things that aren't even allowable under the code.  An attorney defends the law and the procedures and helps make sure that the punishment fits the crime considering all violations (violations by code enforcement  for slacking on procedures and rules, and violations by accused), they (an attorney) does NOT defend an unlawful act ever.  Big difference.  I would hope to encourage people who have been cited or given notices to simply request the hearing, request the evidence and make the explanations they have clear before being scared off by the code enforcement person with threats. 

LoPotts
LoPotts

Thomas Jefferson is crying right now. You are being moronic and leading to the degradation of our God given rights.

StephenPalmer
StephenPalmer

@Bronson The point is that this law does NOT protect me or anyone else. Ever heard of non-violent resistance? There is nothing irresponsible about it. In fact, it is the most responsible thing we can do.

roseanncasarosa
roseanncasarosa

@Bronson  I will be there too.. thanks for your action.

Elizabeth S
Elizabeth S

So can you invite people into your house to stay for a "donation to the family fund?"  Can you claim non-profit status?  Maybe you are a ministry?

utahsouth
utahsouth

@Elizabeth S Some of our friends have suggested this to the code enforcement people who are sympathetic to their situation. And you could do this, except if you advertise and eventually get a violation, you will still be 'operating a business without a license' Only changing the ordinance ot allow for home business for b and b's will solve the problem.. as I see it..

Elizabeth S
Elizabeth S

I have had a vacation rental across the street from me for many years.  I LOVE IT!  I love the excitement and happiness that these vacationers bring to our neighborhood.  We have never had a problem and there have been some REALLY BIG groups, even sometimes knocking on the door to borrow ingredients for their barbecues.  It is ridiculous that Mr Palmer cannot have guests in his own home at his own discretion, after all, he is living there at the same time to make sure there are no "loud noises."  I can have guests visit me.  The difference is that he is making money. (how do you know I am not?) Heaven forbid someone make a living!  I'm surprised they haven't shut down lemonade stands. I really am.  Can't the city consider the tax revenue that comes from such businesses?  How about the revenue to our city from the tourism? OH, OH, I KNOW what the problem is, OK, could it be that the local hotels are not getting the business?  I knew there was something odd about the Mayor's ridiculous reasoning.  Follow the money and our eyes will be opened.

utahsouth
utahsouth

@Elizabeth S A campaign to enlighten the city council members may help. Having home business BandB's be a debate topic during the city council election may help. Or may just make it less likely. Educating the public may be as difficult as educating the city council. Fear of it getting out of control seems ot be a very lame excuse, as do all other excuses for not allowing a license for a home BandB  Other cities are BandB friendly and it would be a Huge Plus for St George.. in my opinion again.  More city revenue, more places for people to stay in St George, more interaction with foreign tourists to 'ordinary Americans'. and lots more Positive results..


StephenPalmer
StephenPalmer

@utahsouth Working on it. See my comment above. Would love to see you in attendance at the next city council meeting.

LoPotts
LoPotts

I absolutely love your attitude and view on this! You have fun with life! I really wish more people were like you!!!

It is funny how we started a revolution because of over taxation, now people just sit here spouting off about following laws!

utahsouth
utahsouth

We do believe the code enforcement people are just regular joe's doing their job. And that they are just responding as they should to a complaint from a legitimate business about unfair and unlicensed competition to their bandb operations. That is why they have not done a sting operation. They are not the problem. The problem is that the city council does not want to change the city ordinance to allow licensing of private home b and b businesses. Other cities have done this.

utahsouth
utahsouth

I think the city is just responding to complaints from licensed and approved BnB's. At least that is what we were told when we ask the city why we were given a notice of a violation. Actually, it was 4 violations. Doing business without a license, operating a business in a residential zone, doing a home business without a license, and renting for less than 30 days even tho we have a license to do monthly rentals. Seems that each infraction is $25/day fine. So the fines were $100/day. We thought we had complied with the city's order to stop advertising our bnb. Advertising is the evidence they used to support their claim of violations. We took down what we thought were all our ads. But they checked on line and found more. We had them at airbnb, VRBO, homeway, wimdu, and others. So they did not give us a certificate of compliance as we had not complied by the date they gave in the notice. We were then liable for fines. We removed the ads they found and they checked again. It took 10 days for them to respond and $1000 in fines. They were 'nice' and said if we wanted to not see a judge and pay court costs and maybe loose anyway, they would take $500 plus $80 in admin fees. So we paid $580 and got a certificate of compliance.

utahsouth
utahsouth

The certificate of compliance clears your violation. However, if you repeat offend during the next year, they can then start fining you immediately without a notice of violation without a grace period for you to resolve the violation. About 10 months after our compliance, we got another letter of violation. They had found a web site with a photo of our house in an ad for a bed and breakfast that I had no idea even existed. It was with Room-O-Rama. we had never gotten anyone from there and so had no idea it still existed. I went to the city offices to see what I could do. The code enforcement officer was not very friendly. I explained we had never gotten anyone from there to stay with us. He showed me two reviews that our guests had supplied. It was then I realized I had supplied those reviews myself. I was able to convince him of my need to have reviews or no one would stay. He saw the logic of it and did not send our case to be processed for fines. I called a week later to see if they had found more ads and he was a bit friendly and assured me that we were still in compliance. Had we kept advertising and renting we would have had another fine for a few hundred dollars or perhaps even for 10 months (300 days at $100/day).

carpenterlaw
carpenterlaw

@utahsouth Court costs? Where in the ordinance does it say you have to pay for any court costs? What court costs, for the judge to do his job?  That's not really true.  

utahsouth
utahsouth

@carpenterlaw @utahsouth Well... we were in violation of the city codes. And we suspect they could have proven it. We saw the code enforcement officers parked across the street from our house every once in a while and did have paying guests at our home. I doubt they would have knocked on our door or stopped a guest as they were leaving and asked if they were paying customers. But the thought did cross our minds. Placing an add seems to be an indication of 'operating a business out of your home'. If I were the city, I would do a sting operation. Have a code enforcement officer reserve a room and when he shows up and pays us for his stay ... well.. classic scene from the movies. Probably not hand cuffs and a stay in Pergatory but proof of violation of city codes.

So we were guilty and paid a fine. 


utahsouth
utahsouth

@carpenterlaw @utahsouth We did not want to find out the hard way. If we appealed the decision of the code enforcement violation, we were told we could go talk to the judge. It may have been an idle threat, but they did mention court costs in addition to the fines. The fines were for 10 days of non- compliance at 4 times $25/day. They offered to settle for $580.  The $80 being their admin costs of processing the violation. We did not check on court costs. 

carpenterlaw
carpenterlaw

@utahsouth @carpenterlaw Wow, sting operation? That's crazy. Who wants to petition for an ordinance change?  Think of the resources saved - possibly $150 grand a year in employee time and money saved and more availability for people to have a place to stay - which increases tourism and helps the economy.

utahsouth
utahsouth

@carpenterlaw @utahsouth I think the only reasonable way to proceed is for St George to follow other Utah towns who have become bed and breakfast friendly. St George has LOTS of guests at times. More than local business can handle. People call us desperate for a place to stay, and end up in Cedar city or Mesquite for events happening in St George. St George could generate a lot of funds from a tax on BandB operations and licenses. And many people prefer BandB's to a hotel. It seems a win/win and yet the city council resists. They told us that they fear 'traffic flow problems' and 'irate neigbors' and 'everyone will have a BandB'

carpenterlaw
carpenterlaw

@utahsouth You should have requested a hearing and discovery within 10 days they would have to provide you the evidence and the complainant information.  The burden is on the city to prove you violated an ordinance (that you actually rented and received compensation).  Placing an ad is not a violation of the ordinance, I don't know how in the world no one is taking this to the administrative law judge and demanding the city prove it's case, it's the most simple process and procedure just read the city ordinance on the web site.  

Skyler Collins
Skyler Collins

To SP Palmer: If you do fight, I'd consider challenging jurisdiction. They likely have no factual evidence that their codes and regulations apply to you and your home. See http://skyler.link/evcjurisdiction and http://skyler.link/mssuccesses. I can email you a motion to dismiss, a discovery request, and scripts when challenging them in court, via Marc Stevens. Email me at skylercollins @ gmail.com.

utahsouth
utahsouth

We had a listing on VRBO a year ago. We were contacted by St George City and given a notice. The city said that a licensed BandB had complained about unlicensed businesses that were hurting their business. We were fined $500 and ceased to list our property. You can contact me at  utahsouth@gmail.com for more info i  you want copies of letters, etc.


I do understand they are nust enforcing the codes. However, in our contact with the mayor and city council  and code enforcement people that they are not considering changing ordinaces to allow home owners to have bnb operations in their private homes. 

carpenterlaw
carpenterlaw

What constitutes reasonable restrictions on renting a "portion" of your Property while you reside in the other portion - there isn't any see below. If you leave your entire house and they take over the property for a number of days, you are violating the ordinance but you do not leave the home you remain in a portion of the home at the same time.  There is only one property, not two, by ordinance, guest houses are prohibited also so your basement is not a guest house.  Normally you would get one of these from the city because your neighbor complained.  You should serve a discovery request and ask the city for a copy of the complaint filed against you and or any evidence they have that shows you violated the ordinance.  You could tell them you are going to charge them 25 dollars a day for every day they don't give you a copy of the complaint filed against you.  :)  I mean they couldn't enforce it but some dummy might fall for it.  The term "Used" also means proof of money received, contract entered into, and then property rented.  It doesn't say if you put an ad online to rent a portion of your property to someone you will be fined, that is not what the ordinance says.



B. Applicability:

1. This section shall apply to short term residential rental properties, as defined in subsection C of this section.


C. Definitions: As used in this section, the following words and terms are defined as follows. Words in the singular number include the plural, and those in the plural include the singular:

SHORT TERM RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PROPERTY: Property which is used by any person or entity, for hostel, hotel, inn, lodging, motel, resort or other transient lodging uses where the term of occupancy, possession or tenancy of the property by the person is for twenty nine (29) consecutive calendar days or less, for direct or indirect remuneration. For this section, "remuneration" means compensation, money, rent or other consideration given in return for occupancy, possession or use of real property. 


D. Requirements: Short term residential rental properties are prohibited in all residential zones, mobile home zones, agricultural zones, and residential planned development zones, unless the property satisfies the requirements enumerated in this subsection.

Bret Crowther
Bret Crowther

@carpenterlaw I agree that the city would have a difficult time proving its case.  Then again, I wouldn't put it past code enforcement to drive by the suspected residence every day and question whoever they find about their status as an occupant.

carpenterlaw
carpenterlaw

@Bret Crowther I read that in New York, it was appealed and over turned as an unreasonable restriction on property to have this type of zoning ordinance.  When you are in a portion of the home your self and someone comes and stays with you and pays you to stay, it can't be restricted, so long as you are in the home you can let anyone you want stay in the home with you and receive money.  Under Utah Constitution Brett, there is the most strict personal property protection and freedom from government restriction of personal property use.  It would be interesting to bring a constitutional argument against these zoning ordinances.  Along with these goodies just waiting - can't have a car dealership open on both Saturday AND Sunday (thanks Larry H. Miller) AND the same government entity that prices alcohol is also the only one allowed to sale it or approve it's sale and give licenses creating a public business (monopoly).  Violation of the Federal Sherman Act and Clayton Act possibly? Jobs for us Bret :).

carpenterlaw
carpenterlaw

Did they pay you money and you send a contract agreeing to rent?  Then what evidence do they have you broke the law?  You can put an ad on Airbnb to say anything you want, your intent might really be to conduct a survey or determine where people are traveling from and then provide them with a tour guide name or a golf certificate or the email of friend who has a long term rental.  25 dollars a day for what?  Running an ad?  I'm sorry you have to have evidence of a crime being committed, running an ad to rent a room in your house is not evidence you actually rented a room in your house in violation of any law.  

huckabubble
huckabubble

@carpenterlaw All the city needs to do is subpoena the guy's rental data from Airbnb and they'll have all the evidence needed to justify the sanctions.

RightSkeptic
RightSkeptic

The value of your property depends in part on what your neighbors do with their property. For example, if your next-door neighbor builds a really ugly house, it makes your house less valuable.


Zoning laws are one way we deal with this problem. The city is restricting what your neighbors can do with their property so as to protect your property values, but the price is that the city also has to restrict what you can do with your property in order to protect your neighbors' property values. It would hardly be fair for the city to prohibit all your neighbors from building ugly houses while letting you build one yourself.


I don't know whether letting people rent out their basements with Airbnb actually hurts property values. It could be that this is all about protecting the local hotel industry from competition, and that if they changed the law, everyone but the hotel owners would be better off.


But I don't doubt that you benefit from the ways that the city restricts your neighbors' property use, and simple fairness requires that you yourself be restricted for your neighbors' benefit.

MikeTrapp
MikeTrapp

@RightSkeptic This is not a wellfounded argument for the following reason: All value is subjective, and there is no inherent right or authority which is even given to a government to protect the "value" (entirely subjective in nature) of anyone's private property. If I don't have a right to force you to maintain your property in the way I see fit, neither can that right be delegated to any government that represents me. It must be created ex nihilo. 

RightSkeptic
RightSkeptic

@MikeTrapp


So, no zoning laws at all, then? I can put up a high-density, low-income housing project next door to you? Or a toxic waste dump, or a sewage treatment plant? How about a half-way house, or an asylum for people who've been been diagnosed with violent tendencies? How a 100-foot tall billboard advertising a strip club?


You can believe what you like. But you should know that nearly no one agrees with you. Your use and enjoyment of your property depends on restrictions on your neighbors' use and enjoyment of their property, and nearly everyone has realized that it's sometimes appropriate for the government to restrict each of us for the benefit of both of us. That's why there are zoning laws in nearly every city in the United States.

Voice of Reason
Voice of Reason

Of course you've harmed people. Zoning laws exist to create pockets of like-value property. Without zoning regulations, a neighborhood could have a single-family residential home next to a four-plex next to a mechanic's shop next to a 7-11. Everyone understands that it's much better to group these land uses into zones, assuring that property values don't broadly decline because of mixed use.


Within residential zones, you have further classifications based on things like lot size. In a typical neighborhood of quarter-acre lots, it would be folly to allow someone to take their 8,000 square-foot lot and create eight 1,000 square-foot lots, building tiny little homes on them. It would reduce the property values of the neighbors, literally.


Residential zones are divided into groups not only by lot size, but more broadly by single-family/multiple family use. Typically these lot designations have names like "R1-10" and "RM-7." The "R1" means "residential, single family" and the "RM" means "residential, multiple family." RM zones are where you'll find duplexes and four-plexes.


When you move into an R1 zone, you know you are moving into a single-family area. When you rent out a part of your home to someone else, you violate the law. You can tell yourself that you're not harming anyone, but that's not the case. Your neighbors moved there to be part of a single-family neighborhood. You are taking that away from them.


If you are determined to rent a portion of your house, move to an RM zone or get the city council to change your zoning. Otherwise, please exercise courtesy to your neighbors who lawfully expect to live in a single-family neighborhood.

IQvEQ
IQvEQ

@Voice of Reason Um... no.
Zoning is different than restricting what someone does in their own home.
Residential Zoning means "no commercial" (etc), but what this family is doing is not "commercial" it is "residential" ... 
They haven't violated the zoning.
See?
What is happening here is a restriction on how someone uses their residential property. A violation of the property owner's rights.

JDaniels
JDaniels

@Voice of Reason Zoning is fundamentally unconstitutional. In my opinion Euclid was just plain wrong--it was and is a taking. Just like Wickard was wrong. The court got it wrong. There is no such thing as a prospective or per se nuisance. Nuisances are real things that actually occur on a case-by-case basis. Euclid stretched legal reasoning beyond its limit when the competing interest is property rights. The court should have found every excuse to uphold property rights rather than every excuse to uphold the city's police power. See also: HOUSTON! Largest city in America with no zoning ordinance and the world didn't end!

MikeTrapp
MikeTrapp

@Voice of Reason ZONING laws are third party rules which exercise ownership rights over property which the third party does not own. 

Michael
Michael

@Voice of Reason


This is the familiar "it's the law" argument, which means that the law is always correct.


Is there actually such a thing as private property anymore?

MikeTrapp
MikeTrapp

@JDaniels You are correct sir. Collectivism is not founded so much upon natural law and logic as it is upon wishful thinking. 

LoPotts
LoPotts

Keep telling yourself this. Nevermind that you are stomping on the rights of others. Don't like what your neighbor is doing? Buy the property or shut up. You don't own it.

RightSkeptic
RightSkeptic

@JDaniels On the Houston example, see this: http://www.chron.com/business/article/City-proposal-would-allow-higher-density-housing-2308796.php and this: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/hotproperty/archives/2007/10/how_houston_gets_along_without_zoning.html


TL;DR: Houston has minimum lot sizes, parking requirements, etc. It also has lots of private land-use regulation--planned urban developments with HOAs and the covenants, conditions, and restrictions that come with them.


And before you say that HOAs are just fine because they're private, think about this: zoning codes are limited by the Constitution. HOA rules aren't. There are things that a city could never impose on you--a strict ban on political signs in your yard, for example--that HOAs do all the time.

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