Airbnb lobbies at state level to prevent cities imposing short-term rental restrictions

United States: The expansion of Airbnb in the U.S has prompted city councils and mayors in states such as Florida and New York to pass new laws on how such companies can operate.

In recent months, Airbnb has sought to install more permissive measures in Florida and Tennessee after cities in those states tried to find ways to limit the company’s influence there. Lobbyists also claim that Airbnb-friendly bills could be on the agenda in Louisiana and Texas next year, where cities like New Orleans and Austin are central to Airbnb’s proliferation across the country.

>Airbnb has so far had little success in getting states on its side. Only Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Tennessee and Utah have imposed rules limiting how aggressively cities can regulate short-term rentals. Even then, HomeAway’s former head of policy, Matt Curtis, said some of those bills were ‘eventually watered down’, highlighting the difficult reality for Airbnb.

Airbnb’s head of public affairs for the Americas, Christopher Nulty, said the top priority for the company was to work with major cities to pass short-term rental bills at state level as legislators have been interested in addressing the issue.

In Florida, Airbnb has employed more lobbyists this year than retail and telecommunications giants Walmart or Verizon as it pushed for a new pre-emption bill which would add further restrictions to cities’ regulatory authority.

They are expected to rally together next year for state policies which would safeguard the future of Airbnb in Florida and its cities.

Florida’s tourism is largely fuelled by short-term rentals such as Airbnb and although many cities and towns do not want to ban them, they are highlighting the need to distinguish between resort areas for tourists and neighbourhoods for long-term residents.

States like New York, which is Airbnb’s top U.S. market, do not always rule in favour of the business. New York City passed rules earlier this year to enforce a law which blocks most short-term rentals there and severely limits Airbnb’s expansion.

Curtis said despite Airbnb investing a lot of money in ‘building up a team and their lobbying resources’ in its states, its arguments are less compelling to state lawmakers who can see tourist rentals as sources of frustration on their cities’ streets.