Short-term rentals on the table for Colorado lawmakers

As mountain towns across the state grapple with how to regulate short-term rentals, the Colorado legislature is exploring several avenues to legislate the issue statewide.

The annual legislative session began on Wednesday, January 12, and lawmakers have yet to hear a bill on the subject, but lawmakers on the West Slope are expected to propose several.

Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Eagle Democrat who represents Routt and Eagle counties, worked with the state’s Affordable Housing Committee to craft a bill inspired by an idea implemented by the city. of Winter Park. The bill has yet to hit the ground.

If the bill passes, local municipalities could apply for state funding to incentivize landlords to rent to a long-term tenant, rather than an overnight guest.

“We think Winter Park has a great local idea that should go statewide,” Roberts said in a Thursday, Jan. 13, interview. “It can really strike that balance between respecting someone’s property rights and providing more housing in our mountain communities.

Roberts said the bill was not intended to create fewer short-term rentals, but rather to add more long-term options in mountain communities facing a massive affordable housing crisis.

“Short-term rentals are definitely contributing to the affordable housing crisis we have in our state,” Roberts said.

Still, Roberts thinks tighter regulations should be reserved for cities and counties, which have a better understanding of their community’s needs than the state.

“Because the short-term rental market is very different in different parts of this state, a statewide solution could have unintended consequences,” Roberts said. “We want to do what we can to empower local communities to make those decisions and not get in their way.”

Ulrich Salzgeber, chairman of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, said the idea is useful in theory, but may not work for most homeowners.

“I love this concept, and it will work for some people, but that doesn’t mean it will meet everyone’s needs,” Salzgeber said in an interview on Friday.

Salzgeber said most of those who operate their properties as short-term rentals are secondary owners who hope to use their property several times a year and retire there one day. Many of them, he added, could not afford their second property without renting it out to night visitors.

“I think the perception is that large companies or corporations are buying units up to renting them out short-term,” Salzgeber said. “I’m sure some of that is happening, but I would say it’s in the minimum percentile.”

Because so many short-term rentals in Steamboat are unregistered with the city, it’s impossible to gauge how many there are and who operates them.

Salzgeber said the main problem with getting landlords to rent long-term is that landlords will no longer be able to use their property whenever they want.

“Incentivizing them might be a good idea, but the problem with that is that you no longer have the ability to use your property if you rent it out long term,” Salzgeber said. “It’s going to suit some, but I don’t think it’s going to suit a lot.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said commissioners across the state — through a statewide organization of county commissioners called Colorado Counties Incorporated — are considering pushing a series of bills.

A possible bill, which is still only an idea, would allow municipalities to tax short-term rental accommodation like hotels.

Corrigan said the reasoning behind the bill is to tax short-term rentals that are used year-round as overnight rentals as a business, as many believe they are no different from other businesses. commercial.

Details of the potential bill have not been fully worked out, but Corrigan said lawmakers would like him to differentiate between short-term rentals that operate more like businesses and those that are hosted by a part-time resident. and rented only at night for part of the year.

In Colorado, commercial property is assessed at a significantly higher rate for property tax purposes than residential property.

“This is a matter of tax fairness so that we are fair to all of our taxpayers,” Corrigan said.

The other bill county commissioners discussed requires AirBnb, VRBO and other short-term rental platforms to share certain information with municipalities, so municipalities can ensure that all listings on these websites comply with zoning laws.

Routt County does not allow short-term rentals in unincorporated parts of the county, but county officials do not enforce any restrictions. To act would require a court order, which Corrigan says is difficult to obtain.

A bill requiring AirBnb and VRBO to comply with certain rules would solve the county’s dilemma, Corrigan hoped.

“If we had real transparency that would include a provision that would require platforms to remove a listing if a listing violates local zoning ordinances, that would accomplish most of what we need,” Corrigan said.

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