Airbnb bill limiting local control advances in Senate

By Katie Stancombe
TheStatehouseFile.com

 INDIANAPOLIS – Local municipalities may lose control over short-term rentals in their communities as legislation limiting their authority advances in the Indiana General Assembly.

House Bill 1133 came before the Senate Local Government Committee Wednesday and passed 7-2 with a few changes. It covers homes rented out temporarily through website platforms such as Airbnb and Flipkey.

Author of the bill, Rep. Matthew Lehman, R-Berne, proposed striking out the majority of insurance language in the bill that initially meant to protect citizens when rental transactions take place.

Lehman’s amendment, which passed, removed language about what short-term rental hosts are required to cover, the language about liability insurances, and the requirement of $1 million worth of coverage.

“It’s a requirement that you have insurance, and that insurance be purchased either by yourself, by the facilitator or a combination of both,” Lehman said.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, testified against the short-term rental bill as it faced the Senate Local Government Committee Wednesday. Photo by Katie Stancombe, TheStatehouseFile.com

Those in favor said they appreciate how the legislation might help them to continue hosting guests and bringing in extra income.

But the main concern surrounding the bill raises the question as to who should exercise control over these new rental platforms – local municipalities or the larger state government.

Those against the bill argue that decisions about regulations are a local issue that should be dealt with at the local level.

James Reeder, town marshal of Ogden Dunes, said that short-term rentals have caused a huge issue in his community, as the number of non-residential individuals buying up shore homes to rent out increases.

“This is very disruptive to the quality of life in Ogden Dunes,” Reeder said. “Especially to the residents who live there year round and made Ogden Dunes their permanent home.”

Since 2005, Reeder said he has routinely received phone calls with complaints from residents in response to the behavior of renters in the area.

“We had people coming into town for a weekend or vacation that didn’t know our ordinances, didn’t care about our ordinances, had no respect for their neighbors and the neighborhood they were guests in,” he said. “Their only purpose was to have a good time.”

Some of the issues the marshal has dealt with include nude and drunken persons outside, loud parties, and numerous cars parked on and around properties being rented out.

However, any individuals in favor of the bill, including Catherine LaCrosse of Indianapolis, contrasted Reeder’s negative experiences with their own positive ones.

As an Airbnb host, LaCrosse said that she has hosted guests since 2015 and has shared wonderful moments with her guests, showing off the city of Indianapolis and making friends from across the world.

“As a host I am able to provide bicycles, I provide local suggestions, and I provide unique opportunities,” she said. “It creates opportunities that most people don’t even realize.”

Despite positive response from several short-term rental hosts, Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, who testified in opposition, voted no on the bill.

“In terms of how it fits with Indiana’s building codes – it’s a mess,” she said. “And I cannot support this.”

Though she voted in favor of the bill, Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said she was concerned about the bill’s potential to override city ordinances that have been in place for decades.

Breaux said she thinks there are still problems with the bill, and she would like to see a lot of work to change its current form in the Senate chamber.

In February, the bill passed the House with a 53-40 vote. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Katie Stancombe is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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