STR regulations are going into effect. How do they work?

The final draft of the short-term rental overlay zone map. Steamboat Springs City Council approved this overlay map on Tuesday, June 7, 2022.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy image

More than 100 people tuned in for Steamboats Q&A session about the new regulations on short-term rentals.

During the session, city Planning Director Rebecca Bessey outlined the rules for short-term rental licenses and the short-term rental overlay zone, which restricts the number of short-term rental licenses issued in specific sectors of the city.

She also informed short-term rental owners how to apply for legal nonconforming status, which allows existing lawful short-term rentals to be grandfathered in regardless of the limits set in the overlay zone.

Bessey said that her department has processed and approved about 40 applications for legal nonconforming status out of about 120 submitted. The applications are mostly handled by Samantha Harles, the new short-term rental compliance officer.

The planning department expects to process about 400 applications for legal nonconforming status before the Jan. 1 deadline.

Those who have existing vacation home rental permits — which are specific to single-family homes and duplexes — do not need to apply for legal nonconforming status. After the adoption of the overlay zone, the city abandoned the “vacations home rental” definition, and instead defines all rentals for under 30 days as “short-term rentals.”

The city stopped issuing vacation home rental permits after a moratorium in June, 2021.

Only those who have operated a short-term rental lawfully but without a vacation home rental permit prior to June 15, when the overlay zone was adopted, need to apply for legal nonconforming status.

How to apply for legal nonconforming status

To apply for legal nonconforming status, applicants must provide four things: a signature of the property owner, proof of ownership, proof of bookings prior to June 15 and proof of sales tax remittance.

Proof of ownership can be obtained by printing out property records from the Routt County Assessor’s website. If the assessor’s page hasn’t been updated, Bessey said other forms of proof, such as deeds or property tax records, are also acceptable. 

Get real estate transactions, short-term rental updates and new listings in your inbox. Sign up here:

An itemized record of bookings over the 12 months prior to June 15 can come in many forms, and most online rental marketplaces keep track of bookings and make them available to print. Properties that weren’t in use during the year before June 15 are not eligible for legal nonconforming status.

The required tax records must match the bookings report, Bessey said.

“If you show us a bookings report that has 12 stays, and your sales tax report is only showing one, that’s going to raise a red flag for us,” she added.

Because the city entered into voluntary collection agreements with AirBnb and VRBO, those companies handle the remittance of sales and lodging taxes, and records can be downloaded from their websites.  

For short-term rentals that have their taxes managed by property management companies or some other entity, a signed affidavit from that company stating it collected and remitted taxes on the property owner’s behalf is required.

Once approved, the legal nonconforming status runs with the property, not the owner, Bessey explained.

If the property is sold and the legal nonconforming status is still active, the buyer would only need to apply for a new short-term rental license. If the property is not used as a short-term rental for 12 consecutive months, the legal nonconforming use will terminate on the property permanently. Owners of vacation home permits do not need to prove usage in the past 12 months, or worry about losing their license because of inactivity.

In the six subzones where the number of short-term rentals is restricted — marked yellow in the overlay map — the city expects existing short-term rentals to exceed the limits on Day One for every subzone, except the Sunlight neighborhood on the west end of town, according to Bessey.

All licenses, including legally nonconforming and established vacation home permits, will count toward the caps set in the yellow zones. In the event the caps aren’t met, new licenses will be issued through a lottery, but Bessey doesn’t expect to see a lottery in any neighborhood except Sunlight for some time. 

Owners of hosted short-term rentals, meaning rooms that are rented out by owners who live in the property, do not need to apply for legal nonconforming status, and the properties don’t count toward the cap. Still, the owners must obtain a license and adhere to operational standards. 

Owners of a short-term rental license must provide the city an approved parking plan and designate a local party who can respond to complaints. Complaints must be responded to within 60 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 30 minutes from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The number of occupants in a short-term rental is limited to one person per 150 square feet with a max of 16 people per property.  

The short-term rental licenses are not available yet, as the software to process them is not yet ready, according to Bessey.

Bessey said the city is open to extending the Jan. 1 deadline if the licenses still aren’t available closer to the end of the year.

If the city’s operational requirements conflict with the property’s homeowners association, the more restrictive policy applies, according to Bessey.

The license fee has not been determined, as it will be calculated to offset the cost for staff and the resources the city puts into administering licenses and enforcing rules. Bessey said updates will be posted at

People can apply for legal nonconforming status at by clicking on “Apply for a Planning Application.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.