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N4T Investigators: Pandemic Parties Update

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TUCSON (KVOA) - For more than eight months, the News 4 Tucson Investigators have been following a problem with parties at Airbnb homes during the pandemic and what's being done to manage rule-breakers. 

Back in July, Airbnb suspended or removed 50 rental listings in Arizona after either getting complaints, or having to issue party violations. Ten of these properties are in Tucson. 

"Cracking down on this type of behavior is more important than ever,” Ben Breit, an Airbnb spokesperson, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators back in August. 

The crackdown hasn't stopped. Airbnb said it's banning one-night rentals during the upcoming fourth of July weekend. 

"They're trying to prevent people from doing a one-nighter and having a lot of people over," Justin Donaldson, a Tucson Airbnb host said. 

The exception?  

If you've rented a property on Airbnb before and have good reviews, then you can book. 

We found over 300 listings in Tucson. Justin Donaldson owns two. 

"Even though restrictions are lifting, they don't want Airbnb to be a hotbed for gatherings,” Donaldson said. 

He said Airbnb's sending hosts discount codes to buy this noise and heat sensor. It lets you know when guests are loud or have too many people over. 

The rental app also supported an Arizona bill meant to help cities manage problems at short-term rentals. 

"It was going to enable cities to impose fines for violations," J.D. Mesnard, an Arizona state senator said. "It was also going to allow them to insist on certain insurance protections, even create a mechanism to suspend the license of a bad apple."

This month, the bill failed. 

State senator J.D. Mesnard sponsored it. 

"You ran into folks who didn't feel like it went far enough... you ran into folks who didn't want to do anything at all,” Mesnard said. 

He told us while the bill would've made it easier, cities can crackdown without it. 

"Current state law, specifically SB1350, pre-empts local governments from playing any role in developing licensing, registration, or any other regulations pertaining to the operations of short-term rentals," City of Tucson Mayor Romero said. "This is very concerning, especially for our local neighborhoods, as it really strips the City from being able to provide necessary oversight and regulation.” 

So, the city can't enforce rules at Airbnbs any more than it could at your own home. 

The Mayor told us, “as with all private properties, Airbnbs and other short-term rentals are subject to the enforcement of our local laws for any unlawful gatherings or other illegal behaviors. Unfortunately, the State Legislature has prohibited local government from enacting any additional licensing or registration requirements that could be useful in preventing these types of instances from occurring in the first place. Instead of simply responding to complaints after they occur, we would strongly prefer to have the ability to pro-actively prevent bad behaviors from happening through licensing and other requirements that are currently not allowed under state law." 

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate email us at or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.  

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Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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