Historic short-term rental bill passes Nebraska legislature

A bill to protect innovation and catalyze Nebraska’s tourism economy overwhelmingly passed the Nebraska Legislature today and is on its way to Governor Ricketts’ desk. The original bill (LB756) was amended into LB873, which passed this afternoon by a 26-15 vote.

Authored by Sen. Adam Morfeld, the legislation sets state standards for short-term rentals throughout Nebraska — a segment of the statewide tourism economy recently popularized by home sharing platforms such as Airbnb. Home sharing rights would be protected under Nebraska law, and municipalities would be prohibited from any outright bans of short-term rentals.

“The sharing economy is here to stay, and we welcome the economic activity it’s bringing to Nebraska,” said Sen. Morfeld. “This legislation will strengthen tourism and protect the ability of Nebraskans to connect with guests from all over the world.”

Under Sen. Morfeld’s legislation, municipalities and local governments would be empowered to tailor regulations for nuisances, health and safety according to their local needs. The bill also authorizes the Nebraska Department of Revenue to enter into a tax agreement with platforms like Airbnb that would allow them to collect and remit occupancy taxes on behalf of their hosts. A tax agreement between Nebraska and Airbnb could potentially bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tourism revenue for the state.

“On behalf of our Nebraska host community, we applaud Sen. Morfeld for this tremendous bi-partisan achievement,” said Laura Spanjian, Midwest policy director for Airbnb. “If made law, this legislation will protect the rights of Nebraskans to share their homes and open up the state to increased tourism revenue.  We believe Nebraska will serve as a model for other states looking to take full economic advantage of the sharing economy.”

Once signed into law, Nebraska would become the fifth U.S. state — following Florida, Idaho, Arizona, and most recently Indiana — to protect short-term rental under state law. Several other states — including Tennessee, Michigan and Georgia — are currently considering following Nebraska’s lead with similar legislation.

“By adopting a statewide standard that ensures short-term rentals remain an option for travelers visiting the Cornhusker State, Nebraska lawmakers join a growing list of legislatures around the country that are embracing the peer-to-peer economy,” said Matt Kiessling, vice president of short-term rental policy for the Travel Technology Association. “We applaud Sen. Morfeld for leading the charge in this historic effort to implement pro-innovation policies that preserve the rights of Nebraska property owners, while at the same time providing enormous economic benefits to the state’s travel and tourism economy.”

In Nebraska, over 2,700 homeowners and residents share their homes via Airbnb. Those hosts earned $4.7 million through home sharing in 2017 while welcoming 46,000 guests, more than double from the year before.

The home sharing community provides significant value through expanded lodging capacity for Nebraska communities when hotels sell out during big events, including Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway investors conference and Lincoln during Husker football games. In 2017, Airbnb also released data indicating the potential of home sharing for more rural communities of Nebraska that lack traditional hotel accommodations.