Frisco introduces first draft of short-term rental ordinance

A map pinging a number of short-term rentals currently available in Frisco.

A draft of the new short-term rental ordinance was presented to Frisco Town Council during their regular meeting Tuesday night, providing residents with their first real look at the proposal.

The ordinance — put together following months of research, stakeholder interviews and online surveys — is meant to address growing concerns over short-term rentals in town with regards to ensuring owner compliance, reducing negative neighborhood impacts and securing the safety of guests.

The bulk of the ordinance deals with licensing and limitations of short-term rental properties in town. While much of the draft looks familiar — town staff was directed to work with other jurisdictions in the area to create an ordinance consistent with the rest of the county — there are some differences.

In terms of licensing, the most notable change from the town’s previous policy is the removal of umbrella licenses, which allow owners or rental management companies to operate multiple properties under one license. According to the draft, the town will require short-term rental owners to hold a separate license for each property they own.

“Having a license for each unit will allow the third party compliance tracking firm to determine who is in compliance and who isn’t so that we can focus our efforts on those not in compliance,” said Chad Most, Frisco’s revenue specialist.

Aside from fairly predictable application requirements — application fees, proof of lawful possession, address of the property and more — the ordinance also requires applicants to sign an affidavit stating the property complies with the town’s life safety standards such as functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Additionally, the draft stipulates that rental owners inform the town of any changes to the information provided in the application within 10 days of the change and prohibits the transfer of licenses. Once licenses are issued they will remain valid until the subsequent date of April 30, and applications for renewals should be made no less than 30 days before expiration.

Of note, the ordinance doesn’t require a local agent to respond to complaints about the property, though the draft does include a requirement for a responsible agent to serve as the initial point of contact for the rental 24/7. As of now, there are no timing or distance constraints on the responsible agent, though Most noted there’s a chance that could change.

“The responsible agent seems like a good compromise to not overburden otherwise responsible owners,” said Most. “But also provide a way for someone to respond to nuisance complaints.”

The draft also dives in depth into limitations and requirements of short-term rentals, largely surrounding common issues such as trash collection and parking. The draft requires that owners prepare a site plan depicting the parking areas on the property, in compliance with the ordinance. The draft also puts the onus on rental owners to assure that trash collection takes place in accordance with town code.

The ordinance originally included occupancy limits for short-term rentals, though according to Most, those limits will be taken out of the next draft based on town council comments citing equitability concerns between short- and long-term rentals.

“The headline is that council told staff to remove any occupancy limits from the ordinance,” said Most. “If noise, parking, trash and other nuisance concerns aren’t significantly reduced by the ordinance, the town can always revisit occupancy limits at a later date. But there’s a real desire among the council to start small and take the necessary steps first, and see what the results are before we go into depth with any additional regulations.”

The ordinance also requires owners to provide informational signage or packets in the form of a renter information notice. It will give guests vital information in the event of an emergency such as the physical address of the property, emergency contact information and fire escapes. But the renter information notice also delves into more practical good neighbor issues like alternative parking locations, snow removal, noise constraints and contact information for the responsible agent, among others.

“Most properties carry most of this information anyway,” said Most. “But we have had instances where people plug an address into their GPS, arrive at the unit, have an emergency and can’t direct emergency services where they need to go. So having things like the address posted is key to guest safety. Most of the other stuff on there is more good neighbor policies and how to coexist in a neighborhood where people have an expectation of quiet and enjoyment.”

Finally, the draft includes information regarding inspections, denials, suspensions and the revocation of licenses. According to the ordinance, the town may inspect properties when necessary, such as complaints of faulty smoke detectors or other violations of the code. Inspections will be conducted based on complaints, and will require either the permission of the owner or an inspection warrant to complete. It’s important to note that the scope of any searches — town officials believe they’ll be few and far between — will be confined to issues related to the short-term-rental ordinance.

Additionally, rental licenses can be suspended or revoked by the town based around violations. If violations are discovered, owners will have 20 days to remedy the situation before suspensions are handed down. Licenses can also be revoked for a number of circumstances, including multiple violations within a 12-month period, providing false information during the application process, operating with a suspended license and more. If a license is denied, suspended or revoked there is an appeals process including a hearing with the town manager.

“I can’t tell you that it will be 100 percent effective in eliminating concerns dealing with negative neighborhood impacts,” said Most. “But it’s a great step in the right direction. It does have teeth, and it holds responsible owners accountable for not providing the necessary information for guests to be good neighbors.”

The ordinance is expected to go before the town council for first reading on Nov. 13.

“I think we had various view points here,” said Most. “There are concerns that maybe this ordinance doesn’t go far enough in addressing neighborhood concerns we hear about, and concerns we’re taking regulations too far. I think the result here is a good compromise. The council has done a lot of research on their own, and they’re all coming from a pretty knowledgeable position.”

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