For more than four years, Lake Havasu City officials have quarreled with short-term rental companies for residents’ peace of mind. Now, Mayor Cal Sheehy says steps are being taken in the right direction toward resolving the ongoing conflict.
According to Lake Havasu City tourism officials, Havasu was named Expedia’s “top-trending” destination of 2020. The city received a 25% boost in hotel tax revenues last summer, according to GoLakeHavasu, and short-term lodging is well-promoted by GoLakeHavasu for visitors to the Havasu area. But Sheehy says, companies like Expedia and Airbnb have also worked in opposition to citizens’ interests in years past.
Sheehy joined 31 Arizona mayors last month in signing a letter addressed to the CEOs of Airbnb and Expedia Group, asking the companies to end their support for a 2016 law that restricted the ability of cities and towns to regulate short-term rentals. On Thursday, Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern sent a letter of reply to each.
Kern expressed Expedia’s desire to work with communities such as Havasu in addressing bad actors, and has launched an initiative referred to as “Stay Neighborly.” The initiative provides educational resources on regulation, tax compliance and best practices for owners; and it establishes a “no tolerance” policy for owners and travelers who abuse their rental agreements.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction that we received a response to our letter,” Sheehy said Friday. “It’s a bigger step than when they were working in opposition to us. It shows that they’re willing to work collaboratively with us, rather than supporting a legislative policy that would benefit only them, while not being a benefit to our citizens.”
According to Kern’s letter, Expedia intends to improve its collaboration with local authorities for swifter action against problem listings. And those listings may have grown in Havasu since 2016, with the passage of SB 1350. The law, which was lobbied heavily by companies including Expedia Group and Airbnb, stymied local authorities’ regulatory authority over rental listings controlled by those companies.
“In 2014, the Lake Havasu City Council passed an ordinance that allowed us to properly manage complaints of noise, nuisance, parking, trash, and limit issues that impacted our neighborhoods,” Sheehy said.
Specifically, that ordinance required rental properties to be registered with the city, and provided a 24-hour contact, so that any issues could be resolved immediately.
“In 2016, that went away (with the passage of SB 1350),” Sheehy said Friday. “Now we don’t have the ability to manage these issues in a way citizens deserve. (Short-term rentals) have been in Havasu for decades, and we’ve always been able to manage it. We want to be able to find a favorable resolution so that these companies can coexist with our communities and meet their objectives.”
The mayors’ December letter to Expedia Group and Airbnb announced the continued opposition of Arizona cities and towns to SB 1350, and called the companies’ support for the law an “affront to every Arizona homeowner who aspires to the ‘American Dream’ of peaceful homeownership.”
“They’ve spent considerable time and money preempting cities and towns from being able to regulate short-term rental properties in our local communities, in a way that makes sense to our communities,” Sheehy said. “We’re working with legislators, and there is a bill working its way through the legislature that would bring back local control to cities and towns.”
Sheehy said he looks forward to collaborating with short-term rental industries, but he also intends to protect the interests of Havasu’s visitors and homeowners.
“Expedia wants to work with us to get to that resolution,” Sheehy said.