Summit County can’t lower property taxes for owners who rent long-term to locals
A state statute prevents the county from reducing property taxes as an incentive for community members willing to rent their units to members of the local workforce
It’s that time of year when Summit County property owners have to pay up on their taxes for the previous year, and some might have raised their eyebrows at the increased amount they owe.
The jump in the value of most homes is partly to blame for this increase. Summit County Assessor Frank Celico said single-family home and townhome values rose 10.5%, and condos went up 11% on average across the county. Property values were determined during a data-collection period from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2020, for the 2021 evaluation. That was when the real estate boom was just starting to take off locally.
As property owners pay up, Celico’s office — as well as Summit County Treasurer Ryne Scholl’s office — is hearing more input from the public about how they’d like to see property taxes adjusted in the future. Both Celico and Scholl relayed these comments during a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session Tuesday, Feb. 8.
“I am hearing a lot of feedback that community members would really like to see some sort of discount for property taxes. … They feel like it would be great to see some sort of (incentive) for those renting to locals long term,” Scholl said.
Celico noted that there’s currently what he called a disparity between the property taxes that short-term rental owners pay and what owners of hotels pay to the county.
“Any one of us in your own house pays one-quarter of the taxes compared to, say, what a hotel room pays for the same value,” Celico said. “So you have this disparity between what the tax rate is for homes that are used as hotel rooms and actual hotel rooms.”
Celico pointed to a state law, which identifies what kind of properties pay personal property taxes and what kind pay commercial property taxes.
“The problem is, ultimately, the money,” Celico said. “You’re paying a quarter of the taxes, and because the building is designed to look like a house — and that’s the legal standard in Colorado — if it looks like a place where someone can live, it gets the lesser tax rate.”
According to a state statute, a residential improvement is defined as “a building, or that portion of a building, designed for use predominantly as a place of residency by a person, a family or families.” Celico pointed out a flaw with this, though. This means residential properties are classified on what they were designed to be used as, not how they are actually used.
Celico and Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue are monitoring what’s happening at the state Legislature to see whether there is any movement to change this law. In the meantime, Pogue emphasized that without legislation, Summit County does not have the authority to issue property tax credits or rebates to a select group of people, something she said she’s in support of.
“While I would love to see something set up that credits people who are renting long-term to our workforce, I have not been able to find a legal way to do that,” Pogue said.
Pogue said she plans to continue advocating for this kind of legislation, even though she acknowledged there are other individuals who might not be in favor of such a policy change. To that, she said the county needs to be able to provide a certain level of services in order for tourists to continue wanting to visit the area. She said for the long-term sustainability of the tourism industry, community members and leaders need to recognize the impact these kinds of businesses are having on local neighborhoods.
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