Compliance with Vail’s new short-term rental regulations off to slow start
By the numbers
2,628: Short-term rental units in the town of Vail.
600: Approximate number of town business licenses either approved or in process.
$150: Annual cost of a town-issued short-term rental license.
$2,650: Maximum per-day fine for violating the license requirements.
Source: Town of Vail
VAIL — After months of research and debate, the Vail Town Council in 2017 approved a set of regulations for people who use their units for short-term rentals. The program is off to a slow start.
Town officials put out information and held a couple of open houses about the topic.
The new regulations require unit owners to have a town-issued short-term rental license. That license number must be posted on all print and online advertisements.
The regulations also require unit owners to have a local contact person for complaints and certify that their units have required life-safety equipment on hand. The regulations also established a local complaint line for people concerned about noise and other problems.
Despite the push to get people licensed before the regulations took effect on March 1, the regulatory program is off to a slow-ish start.
New tracking tech
As of Wednesday, March 14, about 600 owners had either completed their licenses or were somewhere in the approval pipeline. Town officials have identified 2,628 units being used as short-term rentals.
That’s about as many people who previously had town-issued business licenses. The total of completed or in-process licenses is about equal to those who had the previously required town sales tax licenses.
The difference is that town officials now believe they have the technology to track down unlicensed units.
Town sales tax administrator Johannah Richards said the town is rolling out new software in three phases.
The first phase was getting the online application system up and running. The second phase was establishing a complaint system and a way to document them. The complaint system is a big deal, since three verified, unresolved complaints in a year — for problems including noise, parking and trash — can lead to a two-year rental license revocation. The complaint system can be used either online,or with a local phone number, 970-331-0632.
The complaint system was operational on March 1. So far, the system has logged three complaints. Richards said two of those complaints have been resolved. The third was registered about an unlicensed unit.
The next phase of the program is to identify unlicensed units and their owners and notify the owners of the town’s new requirements.
Town finance director Kathleen Halloran said those owners will be notified by letter and given a chance to get into compliance with the regulation.
Making letters the third step is opposite of the way licensing is handled in most other places. Elsewhere, letters go out first, Halloran said.
Carrots and a big stick
For those who don’t get licensed, the town’s code has a couple of pretty big hammers, Richards said.
Fines for noncompliance can reach a maximum of $2,650 per day and up to 90 days in jail.
A license is $150 per year.
“Our goal is to help get everyone in compliance, and not to penalize,” Richards said.
When Vail Resort Rentals owner Dale Bugby was on Vail’s council a few years ago, he and other town lodging managers lobbied the council to impose regulations on the then-burgeoning online rental business. Council members at the time took a mostly hands-off approach to regulation.
As the business continued to grow, along with complaints from neighbors, the council in 2016 started work on new regulations.
Bugby said the new regulations represent a good start.
“I’m glad they’ve followed up and put into the regulations some of the things I’d asked for initially,” Bugby said.
Bugby said having requirements for local contacts is a benefit, as is a system to respond to complaints. Those complaints — particularly about unlicensed units — are likely to come from either neighbors or homeowners associations.
“That’s a tool to find out who’s licensed,” Richards said.
But that process may take some time.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.