Some people fleeing Hurricane Irma’s path are ending up in East Tennessee—some finding shelter with short-term rentals.
Some Airbnb hosts in Knoxville are getting plenty of requests from families from coastal states.
It comes at a time when short-term rentals are being debated among Knoxville city leaders and residents.
Lacy Wiesehuegel owns an Airbnb property in East Knoxville. Her house has three bedrooms. She said she thinks its affordability and space are attractive qualities for people looking to stay a week or more. Plus, people can bring their pets.
“They can cook, they can all have their own space, they can bring their pets and have a backyard,” Wiesehuegel said.
Wiesehuegel said she believes those are some of the reasons why her house has been successful for rent. Last fall, she also offered the house to people fleeing the Gatlinburg wildfires at no cost.
Wiesehuegel’s side gig has been heavily debated among Knoxville city leaders and residents. Some Knoxville residents don’t want Airbnb’s in their neighborhoods for many reasons, such as it would be noisy, it would bring down property values or it would bring strangers into the neighborhoods.
According to city leaders, Airbnb’s--or short-term-rentals--are technically illegal based on zoning ordinances. The city wrote a draft ordinance that would require short term rental owners to get a permit, pay taxes and live in the rental property if it’s in a residential zone.
The Metropolitan Planning Commission is reviewing the draft ordinance. City leaders expect City Council to consider the draft ordinance in November.
“While that’s being considered by City Council, they remain illegal,” said city spokesperson Jesse Mayshark. “And so if we get a complaint… and we look into it, and discover that that’s the case, we will issue a notice of violation. “
The city said it hasn’t had many complaints.
Wieseheugel said she hopes she’ll be able to continue to open her house to more Airbnb guests.
“We really want that to be able to help other people that are traveling through,” Wiesehuegel said. “And we hope we continue to get that opportunity.”