Steamboat exploring registration process for Airbnbs, VRBOs and other vacation rentals
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There are about 3,000 short term vacation rentals in the Steamboat Springs area, according to airdna.com, a website that collects market data about vacation rentals.
But because websites such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com don’t list the exact address of these homes until they’re booked, city staff aren’t sure how many of those vacation rentals are within city limits. About 170 of these rentals are required to have a permit under city zoning code, but in many zoned areas, vacation rentals are allowed as a use by right, accounting for the additional 2,800 or so rentals on the market.
The city is exploring a registration system for these vacation rentals, which city staff believes could help them track complaints, reach on-call property managers and observe trends in Steamboat’s vacation rental market.
On Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council heard — and accepted —recommendations developed by a citizen’s committee that has met from December 2018 to April.
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The committee identified four areas to explore actions: creating an annual registration for these rentals, improved public information, improved enforcement policies and procedures and revising current standards to create rules regarding how many people can be in a unit and require safety equipment such as a smoke detector.
The committee recommended implementing an annual registration for vacation rentals.
This registration would require a representative of the rental unit provide some information to the city:
- Require a signed statement that the unit has working smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and fire extinguishers
- Require verification of a city sales tax license
- Require a local contact that can be reached at any time
- Require information on available parking spaces
- Information regarding personal use of the unit to determine if it’s used as a second or seasonal home or if it is a full-time vacation unit.
Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey said these registrations could allow the city to collect data to better understand how many units are on the short term rental market and if Steamboat is seeing an increase or decrease in the number of these homes over time.
The committee felt that it needed more data to understand whether Airbnbs and other short-term rentals are impacting how many long-term rentals are on the market, though Bessey said they acknowledged the community perceives this as a problem.
“The committee feels this might be a good means by which to identify whether we’re losing some long-term housing units to the short-term market, and how many of those short-term or vacation units are occurring in second homes that would probably be unlikely to be in our long-term rental stock,” she said.
A certificate of registration would be required to be posted in the vacation unit. Registered units would be provided a number to be included on an online listing, which would enable the city to cross-reference registered units with rentals listed on the web.
Those registering homes would be required to pay a fee that would be used to cover the cost of administering the program.
Registered units would be inspected every three to five years or so to be sure units have basic safety measures in place.
Enforcement and safety
“The committee felt pretty strongly that we need to find ways to develop procedures that our code enforcement officer can cross-reference with police calls and complaints, so we can do a better job of assessing what the impacts are of these uses and working with the managers — the property managers and the operators of these uses — to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing and managing their guests and their impacts on the neighborhood,” Bessey said.
Along with a system to track complaints and incidents police respond to, the city will explore ways to make its complaint system easier for the public to navigate within the Planning and Community Development Department. This includes developing policy within the department in how it responds to complaints and repeat offenses.
Another recommendation suggests amending current city code to establish occupancy limits, prohibit outdoor sleeping in all vacation units and require rules about parking and trash removal are posted within these units.
For the permitted units, the committee suggested reconsidering parking requirements and place limits on how many people can attend indoor events at a property.
With direction from City Council to explore registration and changes intended to increase safety and enforcement of vacation rentals, city staff will now analyze options to implement them. Then, staff will get input from the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission before bringing it to City Council for additional input.
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