'Airbnb bill' grandfathers short-term rentals

Hank Hayes • May 14, 2018 at 1:29 PM

Near the end of its legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a so-called Airbnb legislative conference report that is giving one Kingsport official some heartburn.

The bill, which is on its way to be signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, essentially grandfathers short-term housing rental units unless the unit violates local law three or more separate times.

“The burden of proof that a violation of a generally applicable local law was a direct result of the operation of the short-term rental unit is on the local governing body,” the legislation states.

The Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association ended up being neutral on the bill.

“The House adopted a version of this bill last year which only applied to Davidson County and which we believed to be unconstitutional,” the association said on its website.

The conference report passed by a 67-23 vote in the House and 18-14 in the Senate. In the Northeast Tennessee delegation of state lawmakers, only state Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport, voted against it.

Kingsport City Manager Jeff Fleming expressed displeasure about the vote at a recent Kingsport Economic Development Board meeting but did not want to comment further.

A February fiscal note on the bill showed sales tax revenues collected would exceed expenses and estimated there are about 9,000 short-term rentals available in Tennessee.

State Sen. Jon Lundberg pointed out the bill should increase the value of properties up for rent on the Airbnb website.

“Candidly, Bristol never reached out and said a word (about the bill),” Lundberg, R-Bristol, said. “I didn’t hear from anyone in Northeast Tennessee. I think what we passed was pretty solid, which is if you’re doing those kind of rentals, you’re grandfathered in.

“The hotel association wasn’t too enthusiastic about it, but they were in my office one time. That’s it. Somebody passionate about something would be in my office every week of the session. Hearing from them one time wasn’t major.”

State Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, said he supported the conference report because it protects personal property rights. “The legislation grandfathers in any individuals that have taken the time, invested their resources, and are permitted, to keep their short-term rental in place,” he said in an email.

For more, go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 1020.