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Fed up with Airbnb parties, Kansas City residents want the city to crack down on illegal rentals

A row of houses on a tree-lined neighborhood.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Neighborhoods in Midtown Kansas City are being inundated with short-term rentals.

Data shows that less than 10% of short-term rentals in Kansas City are properly licensed. Residents are pressing city officials to take action.

The explosion of short-term rentals in Kansas City is keeping residents up at night – literally.

“I have had to start seeing a sleep therapist," said Manheim Park resident Rita Williams, whose neighborhood has several rentals. “I've had to get a sound machine. I have to leave on a fan, a TV, to drown out the noise.”

Williams and other Kansas City residents say short-term rentals have caused quality of life issues and are changing the character of their neighborhoods — and they say the city needs to step up and address these problems.

“I came and moved there to live in a neighborhood, not in an Airbnb resort town,” Williams said at a community meeting on short-term rentals earlier this month.

Kansas City enacted its first laws around short-term rentals in 2018. But since then, Kansas City — and many other major cities across the country — have seen the short-term rental market explode, causing a proliferation of unlicensed rentals and headaches for residents.

“No one wants to live in a community of strangers,” said Kate Barsotti, who lives near several short-term rentals in Columbus Park. “I think that's reasonable. I think I struggle, personally, in this neighborhood setting, with having people from the outside treat us in a way they would not treat their own neighborhoods.”

According to AirDNA, a website that compiles data on vacation rentals, there are 2,036 active rentals in Kansas City, Missouri. That number has grown steadily since Kansas City established its short-term rental laws four years ago — and particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

But only a fraction of rentals are licensed and permitted by the city.

According to data from Inside Airbnb, a website that gathers data on Airbnb’s impact on residential communities, less than 10% of Kansas City’s short-term rentals are licensed. According to data from CompassKC, the city’s permitting website, the city has issued 239 short-term rental permits from 2018 through this month.

I think I struggle personally, in this neighborhood setting, with having people from the outside treat us in a way they would not treat their own neighborhoods.
Kate Barsotti, Columbus Park

With the proliferation of short-term rentals, the Kansas City auditor’s office is looking into whether hosts are complying with city law, and how that impacts city income. The audit is expected to be released before the end of the month.

How Kansas City’s short-term rental laws work

According to city code, a short-term rental is a property rented for periods of less than 30 consecutive days. The city has different regulations for short-term rentals where the owner lives on the property and ones where the owner does not.

Owner-occupied short-term rentals can be rented out for a cumulative minimum of 270 days per calendar year. Non-owner-occupied short-term rentals can receive either a seasonal permit for properties rented for less than 95 days per year or a year-round permit for properties rented for longer.

Hosts must receive approval from the city planning and development director to get a permit. Hosts of a short-term rental must also notify adjacent property owners and the neighborhood association, and other tenants for rentals located in a multi-unit building.

Owners applying for a year-round permit must gather the signatures of at least 55% of adjacent residential property owners.

The Midtown Kansas City zip code 64111 has the fifth-largest number of Airbnb listings in Missouri. Councilman Eric Bunch, whose 4th District includes all of 64111, said short-term rentals can swamp a neighborhood with little enforcement.

“The ordinance that we currently have is not well enforced,” he said. “And that's because of lack of our focus as a city on it, and lack of budget dedicated to it.”

A spokesperson from Kansas City said in a statement to KCUR that legal investigators with City Planning are responsible for zoning code enforcement, including to short-term rentals.

If someone files a complaint about a short-term rental, the city conducts an inspection. If the rental is registered, the owner has 15 days to bring the property into compliance. If the property is not properly registered, the owner has to go through the city’s permitting process.

Owners of unregistered properties are then sent to court, where they receive a penalty fine of $150 plus $45 in court costs. A repeat offense the same year costs $250 plus another $45 in court costs.

For residents, the headaches come from unlicensed rentals

Kansas City residents living near short-term rentals believe the city is not doing enough, particularly when it comes to regulating unlicensed properties.

Williams of Manheim Park said she is opposed to non-owner occupied Airbnbs.

“When the owner is not there, they are not plagued with the disturbances that the rest of the people who live on the block have to deal with on a constant basis,” she said. “As soon as one person checks out, another person checks in. The people who don't live in the neighborhood, they don't care about how loud they are, how disrespectful they are.”

Williams said short-term renters have also put pressure on already limited street parking.

“It's an inconvenience,” she said. “And my issue is, I'm being inconvenienced so somebody else can make money.”

Wide angle photo of homes on a tree lined street.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Homes in Midtown Kansas City have become popular for Airbnb and other sort-term rentals.

Barsotti said she’s identified 21 short-term rentals in Columbus Park — only two of them licensed by the city. Barsotti said short-term rentals are more successful when an owner or manager is on site.

“There's a lack of oversight, for one thing, both for guests and for the properties and for the neighborhoods,” she said. “We’re in danger, because of the new (Current) soccer stadium, possibly of being inundated by this kind of thing.”

Kansas City resident Lance Pierce, who lives in Kansas City, manages about 70 short-term rentals at his company, Karat Vacation Rental Management.

Piece said he makes an effort to connect with neighbors, giving them phone numbers to call in case there’s a problem. He said that’s not always the case with out-of-town owners.

“I've spent thousands and thousands of dollars trying to get all the signatures, get all the paperwork, get it all in,” he said. “Then also paying the licensing fees for the last five years. All just so that the city can allow 90% of other hosts not to pay any of that stuff. Those of us following the rules are really the ones getting screwed.”

The broader impacts of short-term rentals on housing

Tom Meyer, an urban planner at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Center for Neighborhoods, said the proliferation of short-term rentals impacts the housing market by taking away units that could be occupied by long-term residents. Meyer, who lives near an Airbnb in his South Hyde Park neighborhood, said that the kinds of homes or properties that could become affordable housing for residents also look attractive to short-term rental investors.

“That seems to be one of the worst effects: the effect it has on home prices,” Meyer said. “There's enough upward pressure on home prices as there is right now. It's been a crisis for some time, and I don't think we need the extra pressure that comes with investment proprietors.”

Councilman Bunch said he’s frustrated the glut of short-term rentals in his Midtown district is pricing out locals.

“What I am disheartened by is that the folks who want to spend their entire lives here in the 4th District, many of them are not able to because it's become too expensive,” he said.

Residents hope for changes

Kansas City residents are hoping city officials will revisit the 2018 ordinance and step up its enforcement of short-term rentals, particularly against those that are unlicensed.

The Kansas City Neighborhood Advisory Council, a city board that works with local officials and represents local neighborhoods, recently issued a statement asking the city to place a moratorium on short-term rental permits.

“We need to stop what's happening and catch up and try and reduce the impact that's taking place right now,” said Council board director Tiffany Moore. “It really can't wait while we figure out what the future looks like.”

Moore said when the original ordinance was created, it was more in the spirit of encouraging entrepreneurship, with the assumption that most short-term rentals would be owner-occupied.

“If only 10% of hosts are following the current rules you have, if you pass more rules, that doesn't mean they're gonna follow more rules — it just means you're gonna have more rules on the books."
Lance Pierce, local property manager of more than 70 licensed Airbnbs

But the explosion of the short-term rental market has exceeded those expectations.

“The ordinance is simply not structured in a way that can manage the scale of growth on the commercial end,” Moore said. “We don't have the capacity or the strength in enforcement to make sure that we are able to register them all. And so many of them are operating outside the ordinance altogether. And so from that standpoint, there's very little benefit to the city, financially or from a tourism perspective.”

As the city considers changes to the ordinance, Moore said it’s important to think about how upcoming events — like the NFL Draft next year and the World Cup games in 2026 — will impact the short-term rental market.

“On the flip side of having empty hotel rooms, we also don't want to have empty homes throughout the city that are also just waiting for that next spike in need,” she said. “That will exacerbate our housing crisis and accelerate that erosion of neighborhood culture and fabric.”

Pierce wants the city to increase its enforcement and allocate funding to help people get a short-term license, manage their license and take action against unlicensed properties.

“If only 10% of hosts are following the current rules you have, if you pass more rules, that doesn't mean they're gonna follow more rules — it just means you're gonna have more rules on the books,” Pierce said.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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