Some Knoxville Airbnb hosts receive warning from city

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Some Airbnb hosts got a warning from the City of Knoxville that they could be guilty of a crime. A viewer reached out to WATE 6 On Your Side and said she got a letter saying if she doesn't shut down her rental in 120 days, she could be guilty of a misdemeanor.

City Council has been working to pass an ordinance to make short-term rentals like Airbnb legal. Right now, they aren't in Knoxville because deciding on an ordinance keeps getting postponed.

Natalie Nordstrom found an opportunity a few years ago. She listed a Knoxville duplex on Airbnb. However, she may have to shut it down soon after getting a letter from the city.

"It's a significant amount of our income and it's something that we have worked very hard for," she said.

She received a letter in the mail from the city on Friday. It said her short-term rental violates a zoning code because it's a business in a residential area.

"I just cried. It was my first business that I started, so to me it was very personal," said Nordstrom.

Lynne Randazzo is another host. She also got a warning.

"Suprised when I got the letter. We have been operating for two and a half years and we have never had a complaint," said Randazzo.

Peter Ahrens, the director of Plans Review and Inspections for the City of Knoxville, said they have sent out 11 of these letters so far. He said they only send them out if someone calls to complain about a short-term rental.

"We are receiving more complaints through 311, not necessarily that they are being rowdy or obnoxious but because they are located in residential districts," he said. "Focusing on these in a reactive manner. We are not proactively seeking out."

Ahrens said City Council hopes to make a decision on the ordinance by November, which is before the 120 days are up for hosts.

"I just encourage them to get involved in the process and speak to their council members," he said.

Right now, this proposed ordinance says a person can only list a short-term rental if it is their primary residence. It does not allow someone to buy a property and then list it on Airbnb. Ahrens said council is waiting for the Metropolitan Planning Commission to take a look at it first.

The city believes there are about 300 Airbnbs in the area.


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