SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The city of Scottsdale says you need to license homes that will be used for short-term or vacation rentals, such as an Airbnb. Mesa has also joined in on the requirement.
Ordinance 4655 in Scottsdale was passed unanimously by the city on Nov. 28 and compliance with the decision began just days after the new year.
"Under the ordinance, short-term/vacation rental owners must obtain and maintain an annual city license for each property. Scottsdale's licensing portal opens Nov. 28, 2022, and owners of existing short-term/vacation rental properties must obtain licenses by Jan. 8, 2023. New short-term/vacation rental properties must also comply with ordinance requirements and be licensed before being offered for rent in Scottsdale," a news release read, in part.
Licensing costs $250 per property, annually. The city says all collected fees will cover licensing vacation and short-term rental costs.
If a rental is currently listed, the city will send a letter notifying the owner and/or operator of the home of the changes and detail how to apply for the license online.
As for the licensing requirements, Scottsdale listed a few.
You must have liability insurance and do a sex offender background check on guests. The property must be cleaned after each use, have working smoke alarms, and do routine pest control.
Neighbors will also need to be notified if the property is going to be rented out for the purpose of a short-term stay.
The property can also not be used to host an event, which aligns with several short-term rental/vacation booking sites' rules for throwing parties.
A city council report from Oct. 25 reads in part, As of Sept. 20, 2022, city staff have identified about 2,800 short-term rental properties advertising or recently listed properties for rent in Scottsdale. Identification of these properties was made through use of the city's contracted technology provider and other city systems. These are properties that are known to be advertising, and their locations are known. In addition, there are at least 1,500 additional live listings in Scottsdale where the address is unknown. These are typically condominium or townhome properties, city staff have asked Airbnb and VRBO for assistance in identifying these properties. This adds up to a total estimate of about 4,300 short-term rental properties currently operating in Scottsdale."
In August, Kate Bauer, who co-founded the group "Neighbors not Nightmares" to fight what she sees as a growing problem in the Valley, spoke about the issue.
"They churn these parties, it's constant. Every weekend, they have another party coming. So the people that live around them, they're constantly on edge waiting for the next party to come. They spend their weekends essentially doing property management, calling the cops all the time trying to get the noise turned down," she said of rental properties around the Valley.
Scottsdale resident Bill Hunter has a harsh analogy for what short-term rentals can do to a community.
"It's a terrible analogy, but it's a little like the drug trade," he said, adding that for the people using the rentals, it feels great, but it's a disaster for everybody else in the community.
Many rentals appear to not be in compliance
As the deadline to license short-term rental properties came and went, we learned as of Jan. 9, that just under 400 homes have officially been licensed – that's out of about 5,000 homes.
1,504 licenses were processing, and 3,000 properties had not been registered at all.
By Feb. 1, numbers were up. The city now reports that 2,800 of its estimated 5,000 short-term rentals are licensed or are in the process.
"Our licensing process is intended to make these operators accountable to neighbors they're impacting," Kelly Corsette with the city of Scottsdale said.
Hunter has doubts but believes it’s a good first step for Scottsdale.
"Good start, Scottsdale. But, enforcement is going to be the key," he said.
Scottsdale says it's already sending code enforcement notifications to rentals that have not begun licensing process. The minimum fine is $1,000 per violation.
Short-term rentals in Mesa
When we say party central, the city of Mesa probably doesn’t come to mind. However, starting Feb. 1, a new ordinance takes effect aimed at short-term rentals in Mesa.
They must now be licensed – just like in Scottsdale.
Super Bowl has certainly prompted homeowners to join the short-term rental game, but Mesa now says you can play, but you’ve got to get a license.
With over 500,000 residents, Mesa doesn't have a reputation for being a party town, but short-term rentals were giving some neighbors a headache.
"I think a lot of operators do a great job, but there's that few that don't and enough of them coming through that it prompted the city to take action," explained Tim Meyer, Mesa business license administrator.
There are roughly 200,000 homes in Mesa, and Meyer estimates about 2,000 are short-term rentals.
More information on licensing in Mesa can be found here.