More Ordinances, Fewer Rights

aerial view of residential street

Photo by David McBee on

The anecdotal evidence is strong that short-term rentals are valuable.

A family relocated to the area and needed a four-month lease while their home was built. An adult daughter came to care for ailing parents and needed a place of her own to escape the burden of caregiving during the final months of her mother’s life. A family moved and couldn’t sell their home. They made it rentable while keeping it on the market, able to make the mortgage payment until the property sold.

All of the anecdotes make sense. They all have financial implications, personal sacrifices, and emotional stakes.

Rental facilitation apps like AirBnB provide an in-between: in between selling the property and getting into the business of land lording. Between saying goodbye forever and earning a living in property management. Like so many entrepreneurial businesses, AirBnB filled a gap in the marketplace. But lately, AirBnB and other short-term rental facilitation platforms are under attack by local government.

When the homeowners’ association (HOA) creates an ordinance requiring homeowners to secure 9-month leases for rentals, or limits how many families can occupy the property, you ignore it. They’re busybody organizations with very little legal authority.

But when Columbia City Council talks about creating an ordinance eliminating short-term rentals, you pay attention. The City claims neighbors are complaining about the rentals. The Council claims they’re trying to preserve the neighborhoods’ character and residential security.

The only thing the City is securing is tax revenue.

An ordinance that restricts the way homeowners can use their own property is a direct assault on the homeowner’s rights. It claims the City knows what’s best for the property and the homeowner must comply. And, unlike the HOA, the City has resources to enforce its ordinance.

Ordinances like this pass because homeowners think the restriction does not apply to them. They are primary residents. They could be convinced that renters are a nuisance. If it’s what’s best for the neighborhood, who are they to object? The City knows best, right?

When you allow government to infringe upon others’ rights, you forfeit your own.

Every time government restricts your neighbor, it restricts you, too. In countless escalations, government begins its restrictions with benign zoning definitions, permits and licensure. Slowly, the government creeps deeper into your neighborhood, your driveway, your garage, your living room, your bedroom.

When the Patriot Act authorized the NSA to listen to cell phone conversations, citizens said they weren’t saying anything others couldn’t hear. If it catches terrorists, then have at it. Now the government wants to stalk your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds and prosecute you for saying things it doesn’t like. Be outraged.

Over the last few years, we have seen the harm done by no-knock raids, civil asset forfeiture, and haphazard rezoning. The duopoly is fortified and running roughshod over due process and private citizens. Make no mistake, when you allow government overreach on your neighbor’s property, you’re letting it onto your own.

In the July 20th meeting of the Columbia City Council, it was requested that an ad hoc committee be formed to study a proposed ordinance for the regulation of short-term rentals. Committee members are: Councilors Sam Davis, Howard Duvall, and Will Brennan. The next City Council meeting will be held Tuesday August 3, at 2 p.m. Get the meeting location and agenda here.

Let us hope the ad hoc committee’s investigation will look for real data on short-term rentals, not just anecdotes.

Government will not restrict itself. Citizens must restrict it.

We must tell the City Council that it does not have the right to determine property usage by property owners. Tell the City to butt out of our neighborhoods. Put a stop to the insidious creep of government.

Scroll to Top