Summit County Airbnb rentals netted at least $23 million last year
Summit County’s local governments are inching toward unified regulations for short-term rentals, potentially following Breckenridge’s lead in establishing more stringent rules to ensure owners don’t shirk town rules or avoid paying taxes.
So far, Breckenridge is the only town to mandate that owners include business license numbers in rental listings. But Dillon is considering that approach as well, and the Summit County government could implement similar regulations as soon as May.
Should Frisco and Silverthorne follow suit, officials would likely have a better handle on how widespread short-term renting is, which reduces the area’s tight housing stock but also allows homeowners to boost their incomes.
Airbnb, one of the most popular short-term rental platforms, announced on Wednesday that it brought 89,000 guests to Breckenridge in 2017, the second-highest total in the state after Denver and 17,000 more than third-place Colorado Springs. The company estimated Breckenridge hosts earned $16.5 million last year.
Keystone and Silverthorne made the state top-10 at seventh and eighth place, respectively, with a combined 48,000 guests bringing in $6.5 million.
But the total reach of short-term rentals can be difficult for officials to track, in part because listings don’t always include addresses. Ads can also be unclear as to which jurisdiction a unit falls under.
If all towns and the county government required listings to include a license number, it would be easy to track scofflaws, especially if the jurisdictions agreed to pitch in on a single monitoring program.
“If all of us in Summit County including Frisco and Silverthorne go to similar regulations, and specifically this numbering system, then any ad for Summit County that doesn’t have a number, we would know isn’t compliant with any of us,” acting Dillon town manager and finance director Carri McDonnell said during a town council work session on Tuesday.
Last May, the Breckenridge Town Council approved rules requiring anyone renting a residence for less than 30 days to include their business license number in their listing.
That was intended to ease enforcement of the town’s 3.4 percent tax on short-term rentals and help officials collect the revenues more efficiently. Owners must also pay an annual license fee ranging from $75 to $175.
Additionally, the regulations can help the town ensure that deed-restricted units, generally reserved for Summit County workers, aren’t being illegally rented out.
An audit conducted by Breckenridge late last year indicated the regulations were working. It found only 65 violations, translating to a 98 percent compliance rate.
During Tuesday’s work session, Dillon town staff recommended the town council adopt rules requiring each short-term unit to obtain its own license for a nominal fee.
Under the current system, property managers are only required to have a single license for any number of units, making it difficult for the town to track how many short-term units are being rented out.
The proposed rules would also require units to have a property manger contact within a certain mile radius to ensure timely responses to neighbor complaints or other issues.
“We haven’t come up with how we would disseminate that information (to neighbors) but we know we would need to collect it,” McDonnell said. “I think there should be some requirement that the owner in Texas doesn’t get to do short-term and never, ever have anyone here to manage that place.”
Fines for non-compliance would range from $200 to $1,000 for each day of violation, the same fee structure as Breckenridge.
Regulations that might emerge across Summit’s local governments are likely to be a patchwork of sorts; Dillon, for instance, is considering requiring safety information placards in units similar to those found in hotel rooms, unlike Breckenridge. And unlike towns, the county government can’t issue business licenses and would need to pursue regulations through land-use codes. County staff are currently drafting regulations and expect to present their proposal to the Board of County Commissioners next month. If adopted, the rules would take affect on May 1.
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who say this is an important part of our economy, but there need to be some regulations to ensure it’s well done and there aren’t problems with trash, noise, parking and things like that,” planning director Don Reimer said. “We’re doing our best to coordinate with the towns to make sure we’re consistent, but everyone does it a little bit differently.”
Separately, the county is considering banning short-term rentals in backcountry-zoned properties, which Reimer said would affect about 25 residences.
(The ban would not apply to ski huts.)
A hearing for that proposed rule, which has drawn pushback from some property owners, is scheduled for Jan. 23.
If all jurisdictions required license numbers displayed in ads, it could allow for more efficient enforcement of the basic lodging tax compliance rules.
“This is not going to happen overnight, but it’s certainly the direction we would like to move in,” McDonnell said. “It’s working in Breckenridge, and I think the rest will follow suit. … So once we’re all doing it, it will be easy to tell who’s compliant.”
Dillon Town Council members said they were comfortable moving forward with a licensing system, but there is no clear timeline yet for when the rules might be implemented.
“I don’t mind being the first ones to do it as long as we’re having conversations to make sure we’re going in the same direction,” Councilwoman Carolyn Skowyra said.
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