What's in the Numbers?

Recently the local media has published their interpretations of complaint data about short term rentals. In response to those articles, we would like to put that data in context.

The Tennessean article recently reported that “in total, the city received at least 975 complaints against 568 Davidson County addresses with active short-term rental permits, from April 1, 2015 to February 14, 2017.” Yet, “there were 457,000 complaints citywide during that time frame.” 

These can be divided into two categories: police complaints and codes complaints below. While we outline some considerations, discrepancies and lingering questions below, let’s simply take the data at face value for one moment and provide something that recent reports do not provide: perspective. 

  • STRPs account for 0.14% of police complaints in Davidson County (rather, 99.86% of police complaints have nothing to do with STRPs) 

  • STRPs account for 0.98% (according to The Tennessean data) or 1.12% (according to WKRN data) of codes complaints.  

  • STRPs account for 0.2% (according to The Tennessean data) of police and codes complaints combined (rather, 99.8% of police and codes complaints combined have nothing to do with STRPs) 

Now, for the data nerds like us, let’s go ahead and take a deeper look into what these articles and the data tell us—and what they don’t.  

Police complaints: 

Unduplicated police calls for STRPs represent .14% of total complaints to Metro PD during the timeframe (647 potential STRP calls/ 457,000 total calls = .0014). Here is the breakdown, sourcing and other considerations: 

  • “Altogether, police received 647 calls at short-term rentals in the roughly 22 months” (as stated later in The Tennessean article)

  • Of the categories of complaints pulled for police calls, “there were a total of 457,000 total complaints, citywide, in those categories during that timeframe.” 

  • The Tennessean article specifically states that “four addresses had double-digit complaints, with the highest two at 26 each. Three of them were multifamily complexes with more than one rental permit, while one was a single-family home with 10 complaints. About 40 percent of the addresses where the police were summoned only had one complaint.” 

    • 647 x 40% = 258 police complaints to unique addresses

    • 647 x 60% = 388 police complaints to repeated address offenders

Additionally, it states that “three of them were multifamily complexes with more than one rental permit.” This does not mean the complaint was tied to any STRP within the multifamily address. Multifamily by definition is 3 or more units on one address. This could mean entire condo or apartment complexes with hundreds of units. There is no way to know without identifying a unit or apartment number whether the complaint was STRP- related as it could have been ANY unit within the building.  

Codes complaints: 

According to The Tennessean data, the 328 complaints to Codes were tied to STRPs WITH permits. However, the article by News 2 WKRN said the number for the same time period was 374 complaints including permitted AND non- permitted. Depending on which is accurate, this would mean that STRP complaints represented .98% (Tennessean source) or 1.12% (WKRN source) of total complaints to codes during the timeframe in question depending on which data source is used (328 STRP complaints according to Tennessean/ 33,452 total calls) or (374 STRP complaints according to WKRN/ 33,452 total calls). That same data would also mean that only 13% (328 complaints/ 2,500 permitted STRPs) of permitted STRPs had codes complaints according to The Tennessean data or 8.1% of all permitted and non- permitted STRPs according to the WKRN data.  

In other words, the complete picture isn’t available in the local news. We will go deeper behind the numbers in subsequent posts, but wanted to take this opportunity to put these reports into context. Don’t forget this: 99.8% of all complaints to police and codes were at properties that are NOT short term rentals.


Alece Ronzino