‘Airbnb state bill’ moves forward as Carmel prepares to enforce ban

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – As a Hamilton County community starts to crackdown on short term rentals, the state is moving forward with a proposal to block city bans.

For some Carmel neighbors, short term rentals have changed their streets. “There was a big party,” Carmel resident Bobbie Westbrook said. “People were parking all in the street. There was only one vehicle that used the driveway.”

It’s not only the noise, but also who’s spending the night. “We’ve seen people from all over the states rented out for just a day or two,” Westbrook said. “We’ve seen duffel bags go in. People carrying duffel bags. I don’t know what’s in there.”

Bobbie Westbrook lives near a home listed on a short-term rental site. These sites, including Airbnb, allow people to make money off unused rooms.

“I never envisioned this in this area,” Westbrook said. Neither did city leaders, which is why a ban was announced last week.

An action that may not last long. “I’m not here to force anything upon anybody,” State Rep. Matt Lehman said. “I want to find the right balance.”

State Rep. Lehman is pushing a bill that would block short term rental city bans. On Tuesday, the committee unanimously supported it but limited the number of rental nights to half a year.

“We had this issue with Uber a couple years ago,” Lehman said. “We have it with Airbnb now. You know as well as I do, as a younger person, that this sharing economy is not a niche,” Lehman continued.

It’s a movement Donna Hostettler is trying to capitalize on. “We bought this blighted property, and for the last two years, that’s when I started my business, we have rebuilt it from the bottom up,” Hostettler said.

She’s less than two months away from renting it out. There’s no ban in her Johnson County community.

But with Carmel about to enforce its ban, she’s worried if this state bill doesn’t pass, more will follow suit.

“It would be bad news for us,” Hostettler said, “We’ve spent thousands, tens of thousands of dollars on this project. It would be bad news.”

The bill now heads to the House floor. Lehman believes there’s still a long way to go before it ever reaches the governor’s desk.

A Carmel spokesperson sent 24-Hour News 8 a statement regarding Tuesday’s vote:

There has been no change in our plan to move forward with protecting our neighborhoods and our local business community from violations of our local zoning ordinance.”

As for Airbnb, a spokesperson last week said the company is trying to work with Carmel. The business said last year the site brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Carmel community.

If homeowners do not remove listings by next week, they face a warning, ticket or even a court appearance.