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A Look At Las Vegas' Airbnb Laws, One Year Later

The City of Las Vegas is the only city in Southern Nevada that allows short-term rentals like Airbnbs. As such, it’s the only city that has rules about how to run them.

It’s been one year since the city started requiring rental homes to have special-use permits, and to be 600 feet apart, among other things.

Are those laws working?

Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian has been advocating for the rules for a long time. She said they have worked to shut down the biggest problem, which was party houses.

"We have shut down probably the five or seven to 10 worse party houses that we had," she said. "So, we've done good in that."

However, the problems are not over.

Tarkanian told KNPR's State of Nevada she still receives complaints from homeowners who don't want short-term rentals in their neighborhood.

For Tarkanian, the biggest issue is that the rentals are commercial businesses in areas that have been zoned residential for decades. She pointed out that the city doesn't let other businesses operate out of homes.

Tarkanian said the city council is going to take a second look at the ordinance in the next month. 

First, she wants to see if the new members of the council want to keep the ordinance in place or whether they want to ban short-term rentals altogether.

She said if they decide to keep the ordinance, they will consider ending the need for special-use permits and large signs outside properties that some operators say have made them targets for unhappy neighbors.

Besides those changes, Tarkanian said the council might look at tightening up rules, especially around out-of-state homeowners that have several homes they rent out. 

Erik Astramecki manages short-term rentals as a property manager for Vegas Vacation Rentals. 

He agrees with some of what the city has done to regulate the industry, but he believes there are ways to improve the ordinance. He would like to see the city include noise awareness monitoring which alerts a homeowner when a guest is being too loud. 

He would also like to expand the use of 24-hour security guards who can be dispatched to a home to address any concerns. Right now, the security guard system is only required for homes that have five bedrooms or more.

"This will give neighbors the opportunity to call this security service if somebody is being disruptive and they'll dispatch an armed security to the home in less than an hour. They have body cams. They can evict them," he said.

While the push is on to improve the current system, numbers show that some people don't even bother going through the effort and expense of getting a license and a special use permit. 

According to numbers from the city, since June of last year, they received 139 applications and approved 32. 

Astramecki said people don't want to go through the process because they don't want a sign on the lawn, and they don't want to pay the fees only to be denied at the end of the process.

He said 16 of the 32 licensees have not activated their license for fear of angry neighbors. Astramecki believes changing the ordinance would bring revenue to the city.

"Airbnb is on track to do over $300 million in reservations in the city alone," he said. "The city could be collecting 13.5 percent of all of it."

For Jeff Belcher, the problem isn't homes in neighborhoods — its condos in his luxury high-rise building.

Belcher and his husband live in the Ogden, one block from the East Fremonet entertainment district. He wants the city to address some of the problems specific to high-rise living.

He pointed out that in traditional single-family home neighborhoods code enforcement can drive down the street and listen for excessive noise or look over a fence to find a loud party.

In a high-rise building, the residents of the building have to call code enforcement and hope they can respond to a problem quickly. But when the officers do come down, they often run into another problem.

"Their owners and the managers have coached them to not answer the door," Belcher said. "If they do answer the door, to not admit that they are there utilizing a short-term rental."

Belcher said this past weekend he found 14 units that were illegally being operated as short-term rentals, and when he contacted code enforcement officers they came out and identified 39 units operating illegally.

"If you do the math... that's 117 guests, strangers that were passing through the Ogden last weekend," he said. "We don't know who these people are. We don't know what kind of quality background checks have been done."

As the city looks again at the ordinance, Belcher would like high-rise residents to be part of the conversation. 

Short-term rentals are not allowed in Clark County, Henderson and North Las Vegas, but a quick search of Airbnb shows a number of houses, condos, townhomes, and private rooms are available in those jurisdictions. 

Proponents of short-term rentals say that's potentially millions in lost revenue for those municipalities. Lois Tarkanian says the city's regulations are about people, not profit.



Lois Tarkanian, councilwoman, City of Las Vegas;  Jeff Belcher, spokesperson, Ogden is Home; Erik Astramecki, property manager, Vegas Vacation Rentals

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.