The growing vacation home rental market in Lake Havasu City has resulted in calls to the city on a near daily basis. A new state law gives cities like Havasu new tools to help create a peaceful coexistence in neighborhoods, but they aren’t nearly enough and the city is fighting for more, according to Mayor Cal Sheehy.
“There’s a place in the market for short-term rentals,” Sheehy said at the latest Coffee with the Mayor meeting. But while there’s a place for them, he also emphasized the importance of giving the city more power to solve the issues that can come with them when they arise.
Issues aired by residents at Coffee with the Mayor events and City Council meetings have included loud parties that shake the walls of their homes, rental tenants that enter their yards, having strangers live right next door and messes left behind.
As of Aug. 27, Arizona requires owners of short-term vacation rentals to register with the state, allowing for the collection of contact information.
“If issues do arise, it’s important for the contact to be made with the property owner, not the tenant,” City Manager Jess Knudson said, because there’s new tenants every weekend.
The new legislation also allows for fines to occur with the property owner, which can lead up to half the gross proceeds for that rental after repeated offenses within a year, according to Knudson.
“Jess and his team are drafting an ordinance for Council,” Sheehy said.
Some of this may seem familiar. Havasu crafted its own ordinance about four years ago, but six months later, the state legislature passed a law that said cities and town can’t regulate short-term rentals in any fashion.
“We weren’t able to have any teeth to really do much with the issues,” said City Manager Jess Knudson, “other than issues that come up with all of our neighborhoods, which is trash and noise. That’s really what our police and our code enforcement officers were able to address.”
This isn’t an issue unique to Havasu, either. When Sheehy attended the most recent League of Arizona Cities and Towns, he quickly found that short-term rentals are a problem statewide. It was actually the main topic of the conference, according to Sheehy.
“Every community was impacted by short-term rentals,” he said. There were the day-to-day issues brought up like traffic, noise, trash and security, but the short-term rentals have a much longer-term impact than one rowdy weekend.
One of those effects is on housing availability.
“What used to be long-term rentals within any community… have now turned into short-term rentals, so there’s no housing stock available for folks who are moving into Lake Havasu City to work as teachers or nurses or police officers... There’s nowhere for them to live,” Sheehy said.
At the LACT, Sheehy was appointed to an ad hoc committee to “work on strategies that we can bring to the governor’s office and the legislature to help solve this issue,” he said. The committee includes mayors from Prescott, Sedona, Jerome, Page and Flagstaff.
The city hopes to have an ordinance by the end of this year, Sheehy said. “We’re going to continue to fight at the Legislature to give us more opportunities to manage them as each community sees fit.”