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Williams takes first steps to regulate short-term rentals

The city of Williams is taking the first steps to regulate vacation rentals. (Photo/Adobe stock)

The city of Williams is taking the first steps to regulate vacation rentals. (Photo/Adobe stock)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Although restricted on what it can regulate, the city of Williams is taking the first step in creating rules for owners of short-term rentals in Williams.

Short-term rentals have become a source of contention among residents in the city of Williams since Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1350 in 2016. The legislation prohibited cities, towns and counties from banning short-term rentals of residential property.

At the time, several communities including Sedona, Jerome, Tucson and Bisbee had bans on short-term rentals in place, so the new legislation meant a change in rules. For others, like Williams, which is recently struggling to find housing for its local residents, the bill removed most regulatory powers from local officials.

Residents of Williams are not only struggling to find long-term rentals, but are being pushed out of the real estate market by investors who often will pay a higher price for home sales.

During a recent discussion about a new residential development proposal in Williams, long-time realtor Lisa Paffrath said local residents are not only struggling to afford housing in Williams, but are also being outbid by investors looking for vacation rental properties.

“Affordable housing here is now anything under $475,000, the way the rates are,” she said. “I know it’s crazy, I’ve been here doing real estate for 20 years, I remember seeing homes for $180,000 and now they are $500,000 - $600,000.”

Paffrath said she regularly sees local residents losing out on home sales because of out of town investors looking to convert properties to vacation rentals.

According to a quick search of VRBO.com, there are 166 homes listed for rent in the Williams, Ash Fork, Valle and Park vicinities. Prices range from around $145 to over $550 per night.

The city of Williams is in the first phase of establishing regulations and fees associated with short-term rentals. The council is considering the following:

  1. Requiring short-term vacation rentals to register with the city, have a valid business license and a valid TPT number.
  2. Requiring short-term rental units to have an initial and annual fire safety inspection and follow all fired codes and regulations.
  3. Establishing fees to cover the costs associated with processing and tracking registration and for the annual fire/safety inspections.

“The purpose of this section is to establish regulations for short-term vacation rental use of residential property, enabling the city to preserve the public health, safety, and welfare of the community,” the proposed city ordinance states.

The ordinance also requires a property manager to be available 24/7 who can respond by phone within 30 minutes or respond in person within 60 minutes to any complaints. The phone number must also be distributed to the neighbors of the rental property.

Before using a property as a vacation rental, the owner must register the property as a vacation rental with the city, and continue to register the rental annually. Anyone renting a unit for 29 consecutive days or less is required to have a registration certificate.

Owners must also post the rental registration certificate and copy of the conditions inside the vacation rental unit.

Owners must comply with all provisions of the city tax code concerning transient occupancy taxes.

The vacation rental must also comply with all applicable codes regarding fire, building, health and safety.

The overnight occupancy of a vacation rental is limited to no more than two people 13 years of age and older, plus an additional two people per bedroom within the vacation rental unit. So for example, in a two bedroom home, six occupants are allowed.

Anyone in violation of the new ordinance is guilty of a misdemeanor each day in which the residential property is used, and could have their short-term vacation rental registration certificate revoked.

The Williams City Council heard the first of three readings of the new ordinance Jan. 13. The next reading will be at the Jan. 27 regular meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m.

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