Vail council debates duplex property rights in rental regs debate
November 9, 2017
VAIL — Different ideas of property rights dominated a recent discussion about what form Vail's short-term rental regulations might take.
The town currently requires only that owners who rent their units obtain town business licenses. But the growth of internet rental services including Airbnb has Vail and other communities looking at ways to regulate the business.
During a discussion about the proposed regulations at the Tuesday, Nov. 7, Vail Town Council meeting, town finance director Kathleen Halloran briefed council members about requirements that are likely to be included in an ordinance.
Given the time taken to draft the regulations, passing an ordinance to make those regulations the law of the town may take more time than the three council meetings left in this year.
Many of those requirements are relatively uncontroversial: Owners must have town business licenses and renew them annually. Owners must submit a signed affidavit that the unit to be rented has met health and safety requirements — including fire extinguishers and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Units must have local contact information for renters in a prominent place, and licenses can be revoked if an owner racks up three unresolved complaints in the course of a year.
Perhaps the most contentious part of the proposed new regulations applies to duplex owners who want to put their units in the short-term rental pool.
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As currently proposed, owners of duplexes that share common areas including stairways or driveways would be required to receive written consent from their neighbors before they could receive the required town business license.
Council members Greg Moffet and Jenn Bruno — both of whom live in duplex units — were the most vocal members in a debate about property rights. Moffet said requiring consent was essentially taking a property right from an owner who wants to put a unit into the short-term rental pool.
Bruno said full-time residents' property rights would be infringed upon unless they're able to give written consent to those who want to rent their units.
"If you're sharing my building, (I) should have a say," Bruno said. "It's an unfair burden."
As has been the case since the town began drafting regulations, a number of residents and property owners spoke to the council, weighing in on both sides of the issue.
East Vail resident Dennis Linn has spoken at several meetings over the past few months. Linn has raised multiple complaints about potential liability on common property. Linn said that if a short-term renter holds a party during a snowy day, then the shared steps to his duplex unit become a safety problem.
Longtime resident Josef Staufer reiterated his belief the town should ban short-term rentals altogether and urged further study. Resident Stephen Connolly asked the council to keep moving ahead with the regulations.
"We have a rule that's broken," Connolly said.
The town's current rules for bed and breakfast operations — which require notification of duplex owners and other neighbors — should apply to short-term rentals, he said. But, he added, he prefers notification to up-front consent.
The problem, Connolly said, is that shared space is still private property.
"The town has no say over how a shared stairway should be maintained," he said.
Another problem with requiring a neighbor's consent is the prospect of that consent being withheld. Town attorney Matt Mire said in that case, neighbors might end up in district court.
"The remedy is talking to your neighbor," Bruno said. "No matter what we do (on the issue), it's not great."
Ultimately, a split council, led by Bruno and Kim Langmaid, agreed to include consent for duplex neighbors who share common areas.
Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached a 970-748-2930, on Twitter @snmiller and firstname.lastname@example.org.