Opinion: The Truckee-Tahoe tragedy of Airbnb and VRBO
This is America, land of the free. I am in favor of freedom and the right to earn an income using your talent, resources and abilities.
So I don’t write today to suggest that we start a legal fight to regulate Airbnb and VRBO in the Tahoe area. I will leave that up to those who enjoy those types of things.
I would, however, like to open a discussion about the community effects of the short-term rentals in the Tahoe basin. It seems that the owners of many homes in our area have turned them into small businesses.
Rather than contributing to the neighborhood, they have become a transient stop much like the inns that are negatively affected by these new small businesses.
Our community has already noticed that these small businesses have caused a housing crisis, making it nearly impossible for local people to find a place to rent.
Employers are finding it difficult to hire a work force to support our economy because locals just can’t find a place to live. Second homeowners have decided that it’s more lucrative to rent for the weekend instead of offering a family a place to live.
And with that, our normal community, one in which neighbors know neighbors, is going through a change. People come and go in these rentals with no attachment to the neighborhood.
Although there are some nice people who rent these homes on a short-term basis, their attitudes and actions can often be the same that you find when in a resort hotel.
But in a hotel there are rules for conduct that are expected and enforced by management. These businesses have no oversight from County agencies like the Health or Building departments.
There are no property managers for these rentals. And although traditional Property Management Companies are seeing a negative effect on their business, the lack of rules and management for rental guests is the real problem for neighborhood communities.
Absentee management of small business seldom works. Our family is trying to figure out if it’s the new normal that renters on our block somehow think that because we live here, we are the default property managers.
We are friendly folks who love people but we tire of having people come to us during their vacation to ask us why their Internet is not working.
They come to our home asking to borrow things that are left out of their rental home. “Do you have a measuring tape that I can borrow?” “Do you have a screwdriver?” “Do you by chance have 3 eggs that I can have? We want to bake a cake.”
These would all be normal requests from a neighbor, but I’m not sure how I feel about it when it comes from someone who I have never met and will never see again.
Recently a guy from God-knows-where came to my house and with a straight face asked me for a toilet plunger. How’s that for a picture? Can you say dysentery? I was stunned and handed him our plunger. I made it clear that he shouldn’t return it, bought a new one and contributed to our economy.
The list of neighborhood challenges is too long to list here. Hot tub parties, beer bottles in the street, late and noisy check-ins. You get the idea. It’s like living in a hotel without the rules.
If we ask them to be considerate they say, “We’re on vacation.” And how about the renter who lit a 4-foot bonfire in the backyard on a windy day? He “checked out” and left the coals burning.
We called the North Tahoe Fire Protection District and they put out the coals. If that house burns down, a small business is disturbed. If ours goes with it, we lose the memories of a local family.
So let’s open a discussion about the future of these small businesses that are being run in neighborhoods that are zoned residential. We are losing our communities.
Dr. Tim Schroeder has lived in Tahoe City for over 35 years and can be reached at balancedoctor.com.