Letter: Correcting misinformation about short-term rentals

There is much misinformation circulating in regard to short-term rentals. One erroneous assertion is that short-term rentals pay no taxes. All rentals of less than 30 days pay 8.4% to 10.4% sales tax. Short-term rentals and hotels pay the additional accommodation tax of 1%, which in 2021 will contribute $4.45 million to trails, the golf course and the new Howelsen Hill chair lift.

In contrast, renters who stay over 30 days do not pay any sales tax or the accommodation tax on their rent. Short-term rentals help make it possible for full time residents to pay no city income or property tax.

The second misconception is that a short-term rental is an illegal business, akin to an unlicensed hotel. The right to rent your own property is usually considered a fundamental property right — not a commercial activity. You may rent your property absent an ordinance, covenant or zoning restriction. It is estimated about 2,800 property owners are legally exercising this right in Steamboat.

Soon, what was a legal property right will become an illegal activity for many in Steamboat, based on where their property falls within proposed overlay zones. There is no discussion of grandfathering those who bought before making short-term rentals illegal. Converting short-term rentals to full-time rentals will not make up the lost income. Furthermore, short-term rentals are often booked at least six months in advance. How many visitors will need to cancel flights, reschedule vacations, get back deposits, etc. if a property suddenly becomes an illegal rental?

The all important overlay maps are being drawn by the Planning Commission. Attend their work sessions, and you will discover how difficult and arbitrary the process is. Currently, there is no existing database of short-term rentals. Steamboat has no apparent process where neighborhood boundaries are established. There is no process to determine whether a neighborhood wants to restrict rentals, unless there is an existing homeowners association.

If preventing short-term rentals in family neighborhoods is the goal, then the neighborhoods need to be clearly defined. Neighbors should vote on whether they want to restrict their property rights by outlawing short-term rentals, and there should be a process to grandfather those who bought when short-term rentals were legal.

We should approach this change with our eyes open to the costs, while respecting property rights and recognizing that short-term rentals exist because many people want to enjoy Steamboat.

Paul and Bonnie Davis

Steamboat Springs/Fort Myers, Florida

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