Opinion: Short-term rentals, Airbnb serve a purpose


I have some comments regarding the short-term rental issue in Broken Arrow. I don’t own, nor have I ever owned an Airbnb. I’ve never even stayed in one, but I don’t live under a rock – I am a business person, a homeowner and, like many people very concerned about my personal property value.

Here is a reality of research – ‘legal’ Airb2bs have signed enforceable agreements between the owner and user. In most cities they must be licensed with the city (just as BA is trying to do) as with any other businesses. In Tulsa you apply for an expensive license and agree to terms, same as with any Type 1 or Type 2 business, and it doesn’t transfer if you sell the property.

Most neighborhoods with an HOA require that they be registered with the HOA. So a legal VRBO/Airbnb entity is subject to the rules of any association they have registered with as it pertains to property maintenance, parking, pets, noise ordinance, etc. They can be sued for violation of HOA Covenants.

So whether they are a ‘legal’ entity or just a homeowner testing the waters, they are subject to rules - at a minimum the municipality and possibly a strong HOA. But rules are only enforced when someone complains to an HOA (and the owner if registered) or the city. A homeowner has the same right to complain if an Airbnb is in violation as they do if their neighbor is doing the same thing.

A VRBO being run as a business is going to be concerned with maintaining their value. In addition to acquisition costs they will likely be paying the city for a permit, they will have holding costs, rented or not – which is their motivation to keep the value up and get good reviews. They have invested in the property (not lived in it) and are probably more concerned than the average about value than the typical homeowner.

No one is coming to town to rent a dirty, run down property. And as a business, the emphasis is on investment. If it doesn’t make money, they aren’t going to do it. Frequently they don’t have the time frame that a homeowner does for the value to go up.

An owner should be on top of short-term issues since they are there cleaning (inside and out) regularly. They are rated on a public site and if not up to standards, it will cost them money.

As with many businesses that weren’t an issue 15 or 20 years ago, Airbnb's are here to stay. Rather than try to stifle legitimate businesses, I would hope that Broken Arrow recognizes this and comes up with a structure that is livable both for the neighborhoods and the businesses.

y experience and research showed that most VRBOs and many other businesses in neighborhoods are not easily visible in neighborhoods. Signage is restricted, the number of legal occupants is restricted and governance can be more stringent than the norm.

Some arguments are made about knowing your neighbors, but in most cases ‘knowing them’ by much more than a wave, a smile or a hello is a thing of the past.

I recognize and agree that there needs to be governance as there would be with any business entity. But at the same time, I would hope that Broken Arrow would find a way to walk that line that provides the structure needed for any business, but at the same time encourages people to visit our neighborhoods, meet our neighbors, and understand why so many people value Broken Arrow and Oklahoma.

We spend a lot of marketing dollars to encourage visitors, to get them to buy property here and raise families here. But we’re missing an opportunity to let them see what living here is really like.

Suzanne Hannum, Tulsa

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