KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County leaders are looking to crack down on short-term rental regulations. Few rules for these rentals currently exist in Knox County and parties on some properties are getting out of hand.
For example, in East Knox County, in a remote area, a party broke out at an Airbnb in early July. The home hosting the party is situated at the end of a mile-long gravel driveway that connects to several other residences. The driveway is steep.
“It’s generally really quiet and very peaceful,” said Julie Clark, who lives off the driveway.
She’s lived in Knox County for around ten years. She and her husband built a home in the woods to serve as a sanctuary for their family.
“It’s mostly family that live in the neighborhood. So it’s really peaceful and safe at night. It’s really dark and peaceful,” she said.
That is until her quiet street met some unexpected guests.
“We weren’t aware of the property. And it opened, I think, in June or July,” she said.
The short-term rental listing is about a block from her home. It’s off the same driveway. Julie heard the sound of a big party up the hill.
“They were just going up and down the driveway, screaming and hollering basically until 3 a.m. And it wasn’t until we found out about three or four, that there was an Airbnb at that unit,” Julie said.
She later found out that these party-goers had been trying to drive their cars up and down the steep driveway. They were getting stuck, which is why folks started to walk, she said.
Julie said the party was advertised on Snapchat. The address had been sent around on social media. This was the first time something like this happened at the property, but also the last.
According to Airbnb, “This party was brought to our attention at the time by neighbors via our 24/7 Neighborhood Support Line.”
Through those tips, Airbnb was able to step in, deactivate the listing, ban the renter from using the platform and open an investigation into the circumstances of the party.
Although the home is shut down, neighbors still remember the night.
“Vandalism occurred at the unit and we feel our safety was also put at risk,” Julie said in front of the Knox County Commission on Monday.
Signs now line the mile-long driveway asking short-term renters to stay away.
Julie wants to make sure this doesn’t happen in other communities. So, she is supporting Commissioner Carson Daly’s proposed resolution to seek out new ways for the county to regulate short-term rentals.
The resolution said, “The regulation of short-term rentals is necessary in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”
It requests that the Planning Commission work with Knox County Codes Administration to consider amendments to the zoning ordinance for short-term rentals.
Hancen Sale with East Tennessee Realtors said it’s a good idea.
“It’s certainly a good idea to have regulations in place so that the bad actors and their bad actions did not come at the expense of good actors,” Sale said.
However, regulations come at a cost. Sale recommends the county doesn’t take it too far.
“At the same time, we also fundamentally oppose anything that would infringe on a property owner’s right to use their property in the way that they see fit,” Sale said.
Julie just wants to keep her neighborhood quiet.
“I believe that the neighbors should have some say, and be able to be proactive in their community,” she said.
Commissioners will vote on the resolution on Aug. 28.