Conflicting Data Leaves Lingering Questions, But All Still Agree on One Thing

Over the last few weeks, we have taken a deeper look into the police and codes complaints tied to short term rentals covering what percentage STRPs represent of total complaints to police and codes, looking at the data from various angles, digging into the codes data and breaking complaints down by owner and non- owner occupied STRPs. Hopefully we have been able to put the numbers into perspective for all of those involved, however like us, you may be left with some lingering questions. We are, too.

Conflicting data between sources


  • Says that “In total, the city received at least 975 complaints against 568 Davidson County addresses with active short-term rental permits”. The breakdown of the complaints in their article, “other codes complaints” is included which would presumably include non- permitted STRP complaints.

  • Reiterates that “One of the most common violations — renting a property without a permit — is hard to verify, officials say”.


  • Reports a similar (but not exact) number of 374 total codes complaints but they say their number includes permitted AND non- permitted complaints.

  • States that “most of the complaints were for owners operating AirBNBs without a permit or for advertising over the legal limit.”

The two sets of data do not jive and until we can get clarity on which is accurate, it is not possible to get a clear picture of complaints caused by permitted vs non- permitted STRPs and what percentage of the total that represents. We also do not know how many of the codes complaints are duplicate complaints at the same address. While the Tennessean article mentions 40% where police were summoned had only one complaint, neither report references how many codes complaints were duplicated.

What both articles have in common: Enforcement Issues


We strongly believe that enforcement must be a priority and these news reports confirm this.


  • States that “‘One of the problems in the city government appears to be coordination. Nashville’s short-term rental ordinance requires, for instance, that properties to follow the city’s noise laws, and people typically call the police department to complain of loud parties. But the police have never referred a complaint to the codes department, which is responsible for enforcing rental permit violations,’ said Bill Penn, assistant director of the Codes Department.”

  • Reports that “’The city has one codes inspector assigned full-time to short-term rental properties’ according to Bill Penn.”


  • Says that Penn “believes there are complaints that haven’t been reported or properly recorded by his department and says the Metro Codes division, which oversees short-term rentals, is understaffed.”

  • Quotes Penn as saying that “… problematic short-term rentals are the exception, not the rule.”

New data still leaves lingering questions 

  • How does STRP data compare to other, non- owner occupied dwellings? The fact is that if we do not know the baseline for comparison sake, no one can tell us whether Short Term Rentals are better, worse or equal to codes and police complaints tied to other types of rentals, such as long-term, non- owner occupied rentals.  All we can see right now is that STRPs represent a very low percent of total complaints to both police and codes departments.
  • The Tennessean article specifically states, “Some of the complaints may be unrelated to the property’s use as a short-term rental.” How can we consider a ban or moratorium when this is so unclear? To penalize property owners without solid evidence that Short Term Rental properties are the problem is not fair.
  • Neither article specifies WHO the complaint was by. We are aware of multiple instances where the homeowners themselves have notified police due to party situations, theft, etc. For instance, one member called the police to her STRP address PRIOR to it being used as an STRP, however the STRP permit had already been pulled. They were called because of a theft by a painter who was doing work on the property. This had nothing to do with its use as an STRP. We are also aware of many permitted owners reporting properties that are not permitted in an effort to assist the city’s efforts to enforce the law. Numbers, without context and detail do not tell the entire story.
  • How many complaints were filed against STRPS by neighborhood groups or neighbors that are fundamentally against STRPs and are filing unwarranted or bogus complaints?
  • How many complaints were made by permitted owners trying to insist that the city enforce its own rules?
  • At the time of the complaint, was there an active STRP permit? If both sources have pulled this data for a set time period, the dates could be compared. For instance, a neighbor of one of our members holds a type 1 permit. He purchased his home in August, 2016. Prior to his purchase of the home, there were 9 complaints to codes at the address when the former owner (who occupied the home full time) owned the home. While those complaints spanned several years, this is an example of how a complaint could inaccurately be tied to an STRP due to the transition of use- type, ownership, etc.
  • Was the STRP actually rented to a short term renter at the time of the complaint? Keep in mind, this factors in all types of permits which could include where an owner occupies the property (Type 1) which we know from above represents 33% of the complaints. Additionally, the Mayor’s report based on 2015 data, says that “there are approximately 2,000 permitted short-term rental units in Nashville now, of which an estimated 1,800 have been active in renting.” This would mean that 10% of permitted properties at the time were inactive. This could be the same, greater or less for the 22-month time period but that is unknown. Either way it proves that just because there is a permit, does not mean there is activity.

Much of the debate about STRPs is being driven by various claims that prior to now have been unsubstantiated. While it is great that data and numbers are finally being used to get a better picture of the situation, the recent data still raises more questions than it answers. Different figures are being reported as facts and it is still lacking comparisons to baseline data to compare if STRPs are actually more or less problematic than other, non- owner occupied rentals.


What’s in the Numbers: Read the Full Series »


The Tennessean article

WKRN article

Report commissioned by Mayor Megan Barry

Share this article