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Short-term rentals—positive for tourism or problematic for the city?

Apr 30, 2022 10:32AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Two men were shot and killed and two men were later arrested for their murders after a party at this Airbnb in Cranberry Hill turned violent. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Following the deaths of two young men after a party got out of hand at an Airbnb, city officials are looking more deeply into the quantity and role of short-term rentals in Draper.

The incident happened in the Cranberry Hill neighborhood the first weekend of April. One victim died at the scene from a gunshot wound, the second died later at the hospital. Draper Police launched an investigation and two suspects were arrested four days later.

At the first April Draper City Council study meeting, short-term rentals were discussed. Mayor Troy Walker indicated he’d like to ban them in the city after this incident, the third involving guns.

Draper Police Lt. David Harris said his department has tallied 13 incidents that have happened at short-term rentals in the last year and a half.

“We were curious if this was making a big impact on our city. There are others, not just Airbnb. We’ve had some complaints of parties for people who’ve rented their houses out. Airbnb is getting lumped in with everything. Apparently, there are several different rental companies and private rent-my-home-out incidents,” Harris said.

According to Harris, the first known incident reported to police at a short-term rental happened in November 2020. “That was an aggravated assault where a person was hit with a gun (struck with the gun but not shot) and there was a fight. The sergeant that wrote it up had been there before…it had been used for more than one incident where a party got out of hand. We’ve had a couple more since then. Three or four were concerning because of violence, but it never came to the forefront until this last incident with two lives lost, about as bad as you can think,” he said.

Harris said other incidents have involved assault, one where a round was fired and the owner found not only a bullet hole in the wall but also drug paraphernalia left behind, another where a person police have arrested many times was in the home with drugs, and another with a felon possessing a firearm.

“Some have just been loud parties,” Harris said. “We had one where someone just refused to leave, a civil matter, and one where renters stole property from the home. Another was a sex assault between family members, and we’ve had a vehicle burglarized at an Airbnb. That’s not Airbnb’s fault either, but the vehicle was parked out in front of the home and was broken into.”

Harris said the incident that happens most frequently at short-term rentals are complaints of noise, parties or fights, but that there aren’t a lot of them. “Statistically, I’m not sure that they’re horrible even though I’m sure the neighbors next to them might disagree.” He said those complaints are usually resolved immediately making them easier than if neighbors who are homeowners are continually calling in complaints about other neighbors. “We can’t kick someone out of their home, and if they’re noisemakers, they’ll be noisemakers in the future,” he said.

Draper Airbnb host Heidi Camacho came to the council meeting out of concern that some short-term rental hosts are ruining it for others. Camacho said she is an on-site host who makes sure she abides by security measures to prevent problems. Most of her guests are paragliders.

“Being an Airbnb host comes with great responsibility. It helps create and strengthen that reputation that Draper is a welcoming community. We have people from Colorado, Louisiana, and Tennessee that come to the paragliding school…they go to restaurants, the grocery store, and we have a guidebook of places to see for our guests. I think it’s a valuable way for us to promote tourism in our state and in the city. It puts Draper on the map. To propose that it all be banned is something there should be additional conversation about,” she said.

According to Harris, his colleague Lt. Pat Evans suggested a solution to possibly curtail the problem. “Maybe if they would consider not renting their houses out for just overnighters, if they were required to rent multiple nights, it might slow them down from having a big bash…maybe a good idea to avoid trouble,” Harris said.