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Scottsdale raises fines, requires emergency contacts to address nuisance short-term rentals

Starting Friday, Scottsdale police will have more power to stop nuisance parties frequently associated with vacation and short-term rentals. In December, the City Council voted unanimously to update two ordinances.

Owners of vacation and short-term rental properties must provide an emergency contact who will respond who within an hour. Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell said the council also strengthened its nuisance party ordinance by adding noise levels and measurement criteria, increasing fines for hosts and property owners and defining habitual offenders.

“Most of the hosts were only doing it once, they were coming to Scottsdale and then they were leaving, so that’s not the problem. The problem is making sure people are controlling their property and not allowing this to occur in the first place,” he said.

After numerous complaints from residents, Scottsdale formed a working group to come up with enforcement suggestions that are allowed under state law.

“The whole reason that we had to do all this is because the state of Arizona, in a means to try and encourage short-term rentals in Arizona, has severely limited cities’ abilities to address it, so we’re trying to do everything within our authority to manage those problems when they occur,” Stockwell said.

In 2016, Arizona lawmakers removed Scottsdale’s ability to ban rentals of less than 31 days. The city estimates it has more than 4,000 vacation and short-term rental properties.

Scottsdale’s Short-Term Rental Working Group met six times in 2021 and the council adopted the group’s nine recommendations. They include:

  • Improve enforcement against properties who regularly violate the ordinances.
  • Work with the short-term rental industry to increase properties providing emergency contacts and improve voluntary compliance and ensure input from the industry is received prior to implementing any recommendations.
  • Use technology to identify and increase emergency contacts and compliance from short-term rentals.
  • Ensure Scottsdale is collecting all allowable revenue from short-term rentals and analyze whether fines could be increased.
  • Evaluate whether Scottsdale's ordinances (Vacation Rental, Nuisance Party and Unlawful Gathering, and Noise Ordinances) could be strengthened to eliminate loopholes and improve ability to enforce.
  • Improve information and resources shared by the city to help inform residents about what the city can and cannot do with short-term rentals and make it easier for people to contact the property managers/hosts when there are problems.
  • Assist neighborhoods, including homeowners' associations, with information and resources on how to manage short-term rentals.
  • Improve education about short-term rental best practices for residents, owners, and hosts.
  • Share information with the State of Arizona about how the city of Scottsdale is using the powers available to cities, and advocate for necessary changes to State Law to return needed short-term rental oversight to the city of Scottsdale.

In November 2021, Scottsdale’s mayor and council members sent a letter to state legislators that read in part, “We ask that you support reasonable and meaningful changes in state law that allow us and other impacted municipalities to protect our neighborhoods.”
The letter contains a list of statutory changes the city thinks would have that would have the biggest positive impact.

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.