2018 Year in Review: Officials work to get a handle on short-term rentals (No. 5)
December 26, 2018
Few topics occupied more local officials' time in Summit County last year than short-term rentals. After all the planning meetings, public hearings and hundreds of public comments, the new rules will take effect at different times in 2019.
The exploding industry involves people renting out their homes or room inside their homes for any term less than 30 days, just like the accommodations someone finds on websites such as Airbnb.com or VRBO.com.
Because Summit County is such a popular tourist destination, thousands of these rentals exist across the county. At the beginning of the year Airbnb released figures pegging Breckenridge as the second-most popular destination in Colorado behind only Denver.
Just as surprising, Keystone and Silverthorne also made the list of the top 10 destinations in Colorado for bookings through Airbnb.com at No. 7 and 8, respectively, putting three Summit County destinations ahead of Vail, which was ranked No. 9.
Hearing of conflicts between renters on vacation and the neighbors who live here year-round, town councils in Dillon, Frisco, Silverthorne and Breckenridge, along with the Summit Board of County Commissioners, all worked to enact new regulations on the booming industry in 2018.
A number of owners complained as the towns and county were weeding through draft proposals of the new rules, but elected officials refused to budge on many of the points and repeatedly framed these properties as commercial enterprises in need of greater oversight.
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On one hand, town officials wanted to ensure a level playing field and rein in scofflaw rental owners who might be avoiding paying proper taxes. On the other, the same officials hoped to preserve the character of Summit County's neighborhoods and provide some relief for the neighbors who've been dealing with issues like illegal parking, piled up trash and noise complaints from the rentals.
Because each government enacted its own regulations, the new rules are not universal across the county. Some have occupancy caps while others do not, for example. Still, because the local government officials were working in concert on these regulations, they're not that far apart.
The biggest change that will take effect across Summit County in 2019 will likely be a new requirement forcing owners of short-term rentals to apply for a separate business license for each property they rent out and list "a responsible agent" when doing so.
Local governments are pooling their resources for a new countywide hotline that, once operational, will allow people to phone in complaints against short-term rentals. The designated responsible agent will then have up to one hour to address the underlying issue that spawned the complaint or risk being found in violation. Multiple violations can result in an owner losing his or her business license.
In August, Breckenridge became the first local government to pass the new rules, though the town had a head start with more short-term rentals operating inside Breckenridge than any other place in Summit County.
As a result, Breckenridge already had some rules for short-term rentals on the books, and the newest regulations were more of an update than anything else. As Breckenridge Town Council predicted, the move has created opportunities for new businesses.
Silverthorne Town Council followed suit in October, passing a series of new rules that went even further than Breckenridge was willing to. The biggest difference between Silverthorne's and Breckenridge's regulations is Silverthorne cuts the one-hour window to address complaints in half between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Dillon joined them with its own series of new rules for short-term rentals in November, Frisco officials moved to pass theirs in December and Summit County also adopted its regulations for short-term rentals on unincorporated land the same month.
"This has been tough," Frisco Councilman Hunter Mortensen said at the time. "This is one of the most thoroughly discussed and community involved issues we've had. There are things in here that I disagree with and there are many that I agree with. And I think that's the important part of our task, is representing everybody as best we can to fulfill the common good."