In Summit County, government action on short-term rentals leads to new business

Philip Mervis, left, and Brian Carisch have started a new business, Summit Local Agent, to help the owners of self-managed short-term rentals address complaints generated at their properties within the allotted time frame. The business was started after jurisdictions across Summit County moved to start requiring owners address complaints within a one-hour window.
Courtesy of Summit Local Agent

When elected officials in Breckenridge predicted someone would try to capitalize on the town’s new short-term rental rules by starting a new business, they couldn’t have been more right.

As jurisdictions across Summit County have been working in concert to impose new regulations on short-term rentals, Philip Mervis and Brian Carisch have been two familiar faces at these discussions.

That’s because they are partners in Summit Local Agent, a new business endeavor created in response to one of the more contentious developments in the way local short-term rentals will soon be regulated. Specifically, it’s the looming requirement that owners will need “a responsible agent” to handle complaints generated by their rental units within one hour 24 hours a day, seven days a week come Jan. 1.

Complaints will be phoned in to a countywide hotline that’s going to serve all of Summit’s individual jurisdictions. Based on language in the towns’ proposals regarding short-term rentals, the only determining factor for who qualifies as “a responsible agent” is that it be someone who can respond to complaints within the allotted timeframe. That could be the owner, family members, friends or someone who’s paid to perform such a service.

With Breckenridge Town Council about to enact the new regulations on short-term rentals in August, a number of owners worried the new rule would force them into paying high fees to property management companies. It was a brief exchange, but during those talks, a couple council members mentioned that it wouldn’t surprise them if someone out there started up a new business to provide such a service.

Well, that business is now here.

“It’s a new idea, but it’s not completely original,” said Mervis, adding that he knows of a few others who are doing it across the country but none currently operating in Summit County.

Summit Local Agent is in the process of signing up new clients with plans to launch the service at the beginning of the New Year, the same time the new rules are supposed to take effect in Breckenridge and Silverthorne, Mervis said. Other jurisdictions will come online when their governments move on new rules and they start to take effect, he added.

“Our bottom line is that we definitely have an interest in alleviating or reducing the complaints that might be submitted by neighbors,” he said of the new business. “We feel their pain, and at the same time, we understand why short-term rental owners would want to be self-managed.”

Summit Local Agent won’t act like a property management company. Rather, it will simply serve as a subscription service to be the agent for self-managed short-term rentals in Summit County. To do this, they’ll charge the owners fees much lower than what they would otherwise pay with property management companies. Mervis said they’re currently running a sale to get owners started with Summit Local Agent’s services for less than $50 a month.

“When these regulations started to come out, Brian and I saw an opportunity to serve short-term rentals owners and help the community as well,” he said, explaining that they “will use a wide variety software tools … to provide a fantastic local response.”

Additionally, Summit Local Agent has partnered with the Family Intercultural Resource Center to give the nonprofit 5 percent of all the business’s proceeds. The money will go to the Housing Works Initiative, a program designed to help Summit’s long-term renters stay local.

Passing new rules on its short-term rentals in October, Silverthorne was the second government in Summit County to do so. Frisco and the Summit Board of County Commissioners are both slated to take up proposals regarding short-term rentals operating in their jurisdictions today.

Based on what’s already been approved and proposals on the table, the new rules going up across Summit won’t be completely consistent.

“Even though we think of Summit County as a pretty uniform community, we understand that each of the towns has different ways of approaching things based on how their local folks want things handled,” Mervis said of the differences, adding that Silverthorne’s decision to cut the one-hour window in half overnight appears to be the most significant change from one jurisdiction to another.

Still, he doesn’t expect that — or any of the other differences, such as a patchwork of occupancy caps — to pose much of a problem for Summit Local Agent.

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