Breckenridge aims to improve enforcement of short-term rental complaints
The town of Breckenridge has received 121 complaints about short-term rentals this year, and as the town continues to make changes to its rental policies it’s looking to be more proactive in enforcing regulations.
Of the complaints the town received this year, 78 were related to noise, 17 were related to parking, nine were related to trash and 17 were classified as nuisances, which include any complaints not concerning parking, noise or trash.
Brian Waldes, Breckenridge’s director of finance, said the town has implemented new ways to address concerns about short-term rentals over the past few years. He said it started with making sure rental owners are licensed and that their licenses are posted in their advertisements. The town also has a maximum occupancy limit for short-term rentals of two people per bedroom plus an additional four people, which is also required to be posted in advertising materials.
Waldes said the town then started looking for resources to deal with the negative impacts of short-term rentals: parking, noise and trash. The town partnered with a third-party nuisance management system so folks can call in complaints about short-term rentals to a hotline, and each property is required to have a responsible agent who is able to respond to such complaints within an hour. The latest iteration of the hotline can be reached at 970-423-5334.
“It’s been stepping up pretty aggressively over the past few years, (and we’re) really trying to try to address what we call the quality of life issues,” Waldes said.
Breckenridge Police Chief Jim Baird said his department gets involved if there is no resolution from the hotline or if someone calls dispatch directly. He also said sometimes the responsible agent for a property won’t be able to solve the problem on their own and will call in the police. If a complaint is about something beyond parking, noise or trash, Baird said it will likely go right to the police department, as well.
Waldes said there is also a process to hold hearings with town staff when situations aren’t quickly resolved or if they continue to occur. He said this is where the town is hoping to step up some of its efforts because it’s often hard to document complaints for a hearing at a later date.
“We didn’t really have anybody there to say, ‘Yeah, that’s what happened,’ so it’s making it really complicated in terms of trying to conduct hearings,” Waldes said.
In an effort to ramp up proactive enforcement, the town is adding a third community service officer to its police department to help with enforcement next year. Baird said he sees all three officers working together, with about one-third of their time going toward short-term rental enforcement.
These employees are not state-certified police officers, and they mostly focus on code enforcement throughout town. Baird said during the pandemic the town has been a bit lax with some of its code enforcement, such as sign restrictions for businesses on Main Street, and this new officer will play a role as the team brings back heavier, proactive enforcement efforts.
“It really has kind of fallen off everybody’s radar because, frankly, over the last couple of years there’s been bigger fish to fry,” Baird said. “So now, the council has indicated a desire for us to get back to enforcing the codes a little bit more proactively instead of just being kind of complaint driven.”
Baird noted that Breckenridge has seasonal spikes, so the community service officers will likely focus on other issues when there aren’t as many short-term renters in town.
Waldes said the town’s goal is always to educate instead of writing violations or holding hearings. He said many times people just don’t know they aren’t allowed to put trash out at night because it’s not an issue where they’re from.
“For us, the goal is always to get out and educate, and we found that the vast majority of short-term rental owners want to be good neighbors,” Waldes said. “They don’t want to have a problem house in the neighborhood, but those problem houses still do exist.”
Waldes said all short-term rental enforcement is entirely paid for by the short-term rental administrative fee, meaning it’s entirely self-funded and doesn’t use tax dollars. He estimated that from 2019-21, the program has cost the town around $451,000.
“This is an entirely fee-based program that is paid for by people who have short-term rental licenses,” Waldes said.
Some of this money pays a town employee in the finance department who focuses on short-term rentals, working with the hotline, administering licenses, handling complaints and scheduling hearings when they do occur. Waldes said the town has had less than five hearings for short-term rental complaints.
Waldes added that each year, they anticipate what the cost of the program will be and adjust the administrative fee accordingly. Since a new position is being added for short-term rental enforcement, he said the fee will increase in 2022.
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