REGULATIONS: Short-term rentals in Little Rock will now be met with a set of regulations. Mary Hennigan

The dozen Little Rock residents who spoke against a short-term rental ordinance Tuesday were not enough to sway city officials. Even as some admitted there was work to be done on the proposed regulations, the ordinance passed with only one director opposed.

The ordinance has gone before the Little Rock Board of Directors 10 other times, but Tuesday was the first time they took it to a vote. At-large Director Antwan Phillips was the sole no. 

Advertisement

With the ordinance approved, city officials will now uphold a slew of regulations, including the requirement for operators to license their business either through a special use permit or planned zoning development. Short-term rentals — like Airbnbs and Vrbos — will be capped at 500 citywide, but with no rules on where in the city they can go. Operators will be expected to pay a $500 annual fee and could lose their business license if three police-verified complaints are reported within one year.

City directors have pondered regulating short-term rentals since September 2022. The ordinance was deferred as directors cited ongoing changes to state legislation, the need for input from other cities and more community discussion. On Tuesday, the directors finally gave the green light for a vote.

Advertisement

Just one resident spoke in favor of implementing the short-term regulations Tuesday, and the thesis of his complaint was safety. Jimmy Walker said senior citizens in his neighborhood were fearful of guests staying at the nearby Airbnbs. The guests are knocking on doors in the neighborhood through the night, he said.

“You never know, the people who stay in the residence, what kind of background they have,” Walker said. “We have a lot of seniors who are fearful at night.”

Advertisement

Opponents of the proposed regulations were mostly short-term rental owners. They said the $500 annual inspection fee is too steep and complained that there was no enforcement for out-of-state owners and a disregard for the already self-regulating business.

The owners said if they fall below a perfect rating as a host, Airbnb contacts them to see what’s wrong. Owners are already held to high standards, they said.

Advertisement

Short-term rental owner Mia Foreman said she has cameras outside her property to monitor the surroundings. She drives by once a week to ensure the trash is at the curb, and she cuts the grass about every two weeks. Foreman said managing a short-term rental meant she could be a caretaker in her mother’s final years while still earning income.

The $500 annual fee is too high, she said. 

Advertisement

“There is a happy medium that could be made,” Foreman said.

Planning and Development Director Jamie Collins, who worked on the ordinance for more than two years, said existing short-term rentals can continue to operate as is, though owners will need to get a permit. He estimated current active short-term rentals number around 300 in Little Rock.

Advertisement

Rental properties that are OK’d through a planned zoning development will only apply if the property is acting as a short-term rental, Collins said. If a house operating as an Airbnb is sold, an office or commercial business would not be able to set up in that property. The zoning classification goes away with the owner, Collins said.

Directors said Tuesday that they may revisit the ordinance in the future if amendments are needed.