NASTRA’s Open Letter to the Tennessee Senate Commerce and Labor Committee
Dear Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee-
We are writing today on behalf of the 140+ members of the Nashville Area Short Term Rental Association (NASTRA). Our not-for-profit organization was formed to help advocate for being good neighbors in our communities while also being ambassadors for the City of Nashville for guests. Membership to NASTRA is only open to those operating a permitted short term rental property- we do not allow un-permitted members into our organization. We also have a “friends of NASTRA” program for businesses who rely on and/ or support short-term rentals. Today, we are asking for your help and your support of SB1086 as amended. We’d also like to address some claims made in a letter you received recently by members of the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County. Their letter is the epitome of why we need your help…
In April of 2015, the members of this same council passed a law saying that, with specific restrictions, short-term rental properties were legal in the city of Nashville. With the approval of Council, residents began to register for a permit and invest personal income into an endeavor they thought would be around for a long time. However, a little more than a year later, the council changed its mind and began introducing bill after bill related to short-term rentals. We realized it was too much for the average person to keep up with and therefore hired an attorney, Jamie Hollin, a former member of the Metro Council, to help us interpret these bills. In all, there ended up being 15 short term rental bills within 15 months. This legal source has been the only way to ensure our members and others who rent their home were compliant with the fast shifting laws and constant proposed changes. Especially given that with each change, Metro did nothing to notify owners of those changes and the majority of the time, public websites did not display the most up to date information. Our attorney helps defend our property rights as well. He also has other clients, many of whom are not members of our organization. Those clients in no way reflect the views of our organization nor are they funded by our organization.
Because of this action, we are now being labeled “big business,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of our members are renting their homes to make ends meet, pay for their children’s education, help with retirement, or to stay home with their children, etc. We are regular folks working to make a living and want to contribute to our local and state economy.
The mere notion that we’re considered big business is ludicrous. We’ve attached a letter from Greg Adkins, President and CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association and the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association – also Chairman of the Metro Nashville Planning Commission.
The hotel industry is an important part of our tourism economy. At the same time, modern travelers are looking for different ways to experience local culture, expect options and are always looking to save a few dollars while at the same time being able to stay together under one roof. Again, short-term rental owners are regular Nashville residents working to make a living and be a part of our state’s success.
With the exception of a handful of our members, we are Nashville residents. Instead of being treated as equal members of our community, as evidenced by the letter you recently received, our organization and its members have been targeted and demonized by the same body that voted to make renting our home legal in the first place. While certain council members may not like that we share our homes, what we are doing IS LEGAL (at least until June 2020). We do not support party houses (which are an anomaly) nor those operating without a permit. In fact, we have encouraged and called for proper enforcement all along. All we want is fair, balanced regulation that still upholds property rights.
The letter by members of the council (and even that by the Chief of Police) does not cite data. They simply share their opinion without evidence. As you work to address this issue, we hope you’ll understand that there are two sides to this debate. The facts tell a very different story than those anti-STRP advocates would lead you to believe. Here are a few:
Only 0.2% of ALL codes and police complaints combined are tied to STRPs. http://nastra.org/blog/2017/03/15/whats-in-the-numbers/ (references data sources as well)
STRPS of all types (including owner – occupied) make up just over 1% of all housing in Davidson County. When looking at non -owner occupied (type 2) they make up 0.4% of all housing in the County. Sourcing provided in this link from a presentation our organization gave to the ad hoc committee: http://nastra.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/NASTRA-Benefits-Data-Compromise_FINAL_9.13.2017.pdf
Public opinion polls repeatedly show that the majority of local residents support home sharing whether the owner lives there or not. Here’s the most recent released by Vanderbilt in which 62% of respondents say short term rentals should be allowed in residential neighborhoods: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/csdi/Nashville_2018_topline.pdf (another from the Tennessean: https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/columnists/david-plazas/2017/11/26/airbnb-nashville-tennessean-survey-short-term-rentals/858949001/)
At every public hearing, those in favor of short term rentals equaled (and in some cases there were more than) those in opposition of STRPs than there were in opposition.
This is the type information we put out. While it may contradict the opinion of some, sourced information with factual data can hardly be “misinformation.” Unfortunately, it does not make for dramatic headlines; it’s just the boring truth that the vast majority of short term rentals cause no problems at all.
Sadly, this continuous assault on our property rights by the Metro Council shows no signs of stopping. Just recently, the head of the Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods (an organization whose primary focus is anti-STRP activism) was recorded sharing that he’s working with council on a bill to strip the BZA of their power to appeal STRP related cases. Additionally, throughout the process to get BL2017-608 passed, 608 was often referred to as a “starter” bill. For the record, 608, among other things, phases out non-owner-occupied homes and then bans the use in residential areas. As they were passing 608 on the floor, one council member even spoke of the need to add more zones to the list of banned non-owner occupied zones in the bill.
This same video is also a great example of what would happen to STRP owners if they were to apply for an overlay allowing them the right to continue to share their home as a short term rental. You will see that there is not one person from the immediate neighborhood who showed up in opposition – it is the same people time and again who simply oppose short-term rentals speaking out against them. Meanwhile, actual, immediate neighbors who live around the home wrote in in support of the STRP.
Meanwhile, anti-STRP advocates have physically and cyber bullied and stalked short-term rental owners. They have filed a multitude of false complaints that waste valuable taxpayer resources and have trespassed on our property. We have tried to stay above the fray. Many of our owners have long been afraid for physical safety of their property, themselves and visitors as well as online bullying because of such activists. However, the feeling is changing and we can no longer stay silent about them. It is shocking that the city is so focused on a small group of law- abiding citizens when vigilantism is taking place in our neighborhoods. Here are a few examples of such activity:
This page was created in early 2016 by a group of anti-STRP activists. While getting STRP addresses from public records is legal, they then drive by the homes in many cases to take photos (sometimes with children playing in the front yard) and then post them on this page for others to watch out for the properties and encourage complaints.
There have been several reports by home owners who have seen well- known anti-STRP advocates outside their homes sitting in cars, standing in driveaways, taking photos of their property, etc.
Here’s an example of an anti-STRP activist caught on camera repeatedly trespassing onto a STRP property in her neighborhood and stealing property: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2GKQjCWDlk&feature=youtu.be
For those who speak out in support of short-term rentals, we’ve had instances where they’re stalked online and then multiple false reports are filed with Metro Codes at once.
Someone recently shared that one person’s property rights begin where the other’s end. We full heartedly agree. Banning any type of short-term rentals because of a few bad apples is an infringement on the property rights of the law- abiding owners, like our members, who have followed the law, have great relationships with their neighbors and are simply a contributing member of the community
In closing, short-term rental properties contribute enormously to our growing tourism economy, in rural and urban areas. Our property provides affordable options and a positive experience for visitors, whether they’re a family or a group of friends visiting for a weekend, or a family staying for an extended period while a loved one is in the hospital.
Please protect the property rights of all. Please vote to pass SB1086 with amendments.
Thank you for your service to Tennessee.
On Behalf of NASTRA