VRBO bans 1-night rentals in Arizona, cites large gatherings

Ella Castle

PHOENIX (AP) — The VRBO vacation rental site say it is implementing a months-long ban on one-night rentals in Arizona in response to concerns over large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The single-night rental ban will run through January and was disclosed in a letter Tuesday to Gov. Doug […]

PHOENIX (AP) — The VRBO vacation rental site say it is implementing a months-long ban on one-night rentals in Arizona in response to concerns over large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The single-night rental ban will run through January and was disclosed in a letter Tuesday to Gov. Doug Ducey, the Arizona Republic reported.

The site’s parent company, Expedia Group, plans to develop long-term steps to help eliminate large gatherings through changes in the reservation system and through identification “of bad actors after the fact to prevent future incidents,” the letter said.

Pandemic-related concerns about large gatherings have added to previously voiced complaints about short-term rentals of homes used for frequent parties and other gatherings that produce loud noise, rude behavior and street congestion.

The issue has festered since Arizona lawmakers in 2016 approved legislation prohibiting municipalities from banning rentals. That allowed them to flourish.

Amanda Pedigo, an Expedia Group vice president, said the company met recently with community leaders and Ducey’s staff.

“These conversations revealed a unifying question: how to make vacation rentals safer for everyone in an uncertain environment and reduce possible negative impacts of large-group gatherings?” Pedigo’s letter said. “As a company built on family travel, we take those concerns and feedback seriously.

Airbnb in July suspended or removed 50 short-term rental listings in Arizona that received complaints or violated its policies related to parties and events. The company said that month it had taken enforcement action on party houses.

“While the vast majority of hosts in Arizona take important steps to prevent unauthorized parties … our actions today address the small minority of hosts who have previously received warnings about hosting responsibly,” Airbnb said when it removed the 50 party houses.

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said the governor, who signed the 2016 legislation, appreciates VRBO’s move.

“While we didn’t suggest this specific change, we appreciate their proactive efforts and cautiousness during the pandemic,” Ptak said.

The Legislature earlier this year considered the rental issue again but a bill to place new rules on the industry failed among complaints from some lawmakers that it didn’t go far enough.

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, a Phoenix Republican who sponsored a different bill to regulate short-term rentals, said VRBO’s ban on one-night rentals was a good sign.

“I’m sensing some much needed cooperation, and I appreciate that,” Brophy McGee said. “These poor folks (neighbors) are just being tormented.”

However, a one-night ban by one company isn’t enough because problem renters might use other rental platforms and some homes have been rented for week-long parties, she said.

Brophy McGee’s bill and others on the subject died when the Legislature adjourned its 2020 regular session early because of the pandemic, but she said the issue should be a priority when lawmakers reconvene.

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