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Legislators Will Try Again to Block Limits on Airbnb

Study committee expected to call for preventing "undue restrictions"

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Legislators will try again next year to block cities from restricting you from renting out your house.

A study committee report calls for preventing any "undue restrictions" on services like Airbnb. The report doesn't attempt to turn that into draft legislation. Committee chairman Senator Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) says he wanted to focus on the overall policy goal of safeguarding property rights.

Legislators tried to limit Airbnb restrictions in this year's session, but fell one vote short in the House. Fort Wayne Representative Bob Morris says even if there are no changes to that proposal, the study committee's work may sway some votes. He says despite warnings from some local officials about an unregulated "Animal House" round-the-clock party, police say calls to Airbnb properties have been rare.

Messmer says he expects the final bill to include exceptions for existing ordinances and restrictions imposed by homeowners' associations. He says homeowners along Lake Michigan are in a unique situation that may call for some limits, and Morris says elected  homeowners' boards setting their own rules are different from a local government imposing them. But Messmer says most cities don't have any reason to be exempt -- including Carmel, which triggered the debate by notifying homeowners they'd be violating zoning laws.

Carmel has proposed a compromise under which homeowners would purchase a permit to operate an Airbnb, with neighbors allowed to petition the zoning board to revoke it for misconduct. Morris says homeowners shouldn't have to pay a fee to do what they want with their property.

The study committee backed the recommendation 7-3 along party lines, but six absences left supporters one short of the majority required to make the recommendation official. Democrats argue local governments should be able to decide for themselves.

Messmer says he's confident there are one or two more yeses among the no-shows, and says he may reconvene the committee next week for a revote.  The panel's recommendations are nonbinding anyway.

(Photo: Andrey Popov/Thinkstock)


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