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Edgewood Hears from Both Sides on Airbnb Rentals

Residents and property owners filled the Edgewood city council chamber last week for a discussion about two possible ordinances related to short-term rentals such as Airbnb.

One ordinance would prohibit such rentals, setting penalties for those who violate. Another would require a rental unit to be registered and each individual tenant to be registered along with the dates of residence.

Attorney Frank Wichmann was tasked with drawing up the ordinances after complaints from Edgewood residents at an earlier council meeting.

Pete Zimmer owns a property in the city that has been rented on a short-term basis. He said that he and his family were looking for a project.

Airbnb, he said, vets its renters according to the standards offered by owners. Zimmer said that more is known about the short-term renters than people purchasing a home, though he said there is still a learning process.

Council members asked whether Zimmer paid a hotel tax, and he did not know. Some members of council argued that the short-term rentals would cost the city more money than it would generate.

Aaron Smith, who owns a short-term rental property in West Covington, said that he pays a hotel tax and has so far only had one bad experience with a renter. He asked Edgewood to regulate the rentals rather than ban them.

Edgewood, Smith argued, has the opportunity to be a leader on the issue. Some suggested regulations include having a rental possess a profile picture, a government-issued identification card, at least one five-star rating, and be at least 21 years old. Property owners could have to complete a course on short-term rentals. 

Smith also suggested a tax, regulating the number of guests, and a semi-annual inspection of rental properties.

Resident Carol Fausz said that she would rather see the city remain residential, and expressed concern that investors would start buying up property in Edgewood. Her remarks drew applause from the crowd.

Nancy Woeste, from Lawrence Drive, said that she was not one to be against change, but she wants it to be in the right direction.

"I did not see this coming," she told council, and added that she did not want short-term rentals on her street.

Resident Jerry Gibbs owns a rental in Ft. Wright. He told council that he stays in Airbnb rentals all over the world, and he is sure they get more out of their rentals than he gets. He said he doesn't want to rent out his house, but he didn't think anyone could tell a homeowner what they could do with their house. He said that was a slippery slope.

Resident Julie Feagan argued that with the construction of a new cancer center in the city, visitors would need places to stay.

Resident David Wang said that he rents out a room in his home.

Others remained opposed.

"My house is the best investment I have," resident Maggie Meyer said. "I have dumped a lot of money into it, and it concerns me that the Airbnb will devalue my property."

She said she knows the ones who own the rental are in it for the money, and said she is in it for the money, too. She said she plans on selling her house one day, and she is very nervous that she will not get her money back with rentals on the street. She told council she deserves to get her money back for the house.

Councilman Dale Henson asked Wichmann whether an ordinance could limit the number of rentals allowed. Wichmann said that he was unaware of any such legislation elsewhere and that he would have concerns about it.

Councilwoman Kim Wolking, who was filling in as mayor at the meeting, said that council would have a lot to think about.

City administrator Brian Dehner said that Airbnb is a big issue as the company has grown larger than major hotel brands in a short period of time. He said that the city would continue to research the issue.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor