Vail gives final OK to short-term rental regulations; eliminates duplex owner consent

The high points

• The new ordinance takes effect March 1, 2018.

• Licenses must be renewed annually.

• Licenses do not transfer with the sale of a home.

• Licenses can be revoked for two years following three verified, unresolved complaints.

• Duplex neighbor consent is required for a reinstatement of a revoked license.

• Requires a local contact who lives within a one-hour distance to be available 24/7 to respond to complaints.

• Sales tax account number must be posted in all advertisements.

• Application process includes an affidavit signed by the owner acknowledging life safety, trash, noise and parking regulations.

• Emergency contact information and unit address will be posted visibly in the interior of the rental unit.

Source: Town of Vail

VAIL — After months of staff work and hours of public debate, the Vail Town Council on Tuesday, Dec. 5, gave unanimous final approval to an ordinance regulating short-term rentals in town.

While the regulations prompted plenty of discussion and debate, property rights dominated Tuesday’s discussion. The ordinance on first reading contained a requirement for duplex owners to get the consent of their neighbors before putting units with shared property into the short-term rental pool. That requirement was dropped on second reading.

The idea of duplex owners’ property rights — and whose rights might hold sway in the regulations — divided both council members and residents who spoke Tuesday.

East Vail residents Dennis and Sheila Linn have long been strong advocates of requiring permission before short-term renting a unit. The longtime residents have addressed the council a number of times with stories about rowdy renters, parking problems and other trouble with the short-term rental next door to their unit.

On the other side were owners of rental units worried that requiring permission would be a taking of their property rights.

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Speaking for a number of clients, Realtor Donna Caynoski said a number of owners who rent out their units are concerned that a duplex neighbor might withhold consent without cause.

Audrey Powell, representing the vacation rental firm Vacasa, said that company isn’t aware of requirements for neighbor consent in other communities, adding that the requirement could be seen as an illegal “taking” of property rights.

“I would be concerned about a law that would delegate to a neighbor to veto what I can do,” East Vail resident Lawrence Donovan said. Donovan, an attorney, said the town could be opening itself to expensive litigation with a requirement for consent.

Council member Greg Moffet also argued passionately for dropping the consent requirement.

Moffet owns a half-duplex in another state. He said he and his family spend a few weeks per year there, and short-term rental income pays for the unit.

“If I was forced to get (a neighbor’s consent) and couldn’t get it, I’d either long-term rent the place, losing my use or I’d sell it,” Moffet said.

Difficulties May Arise

Triumph Mountain Properties manages short-term rentals around the Vail Valley. Triumph general manager Mike Connolly told the council that most of the proposed regulations are useful. But, he added, consent could be difficult.

Connolly once was a member of the Eagle-Vail Joint Board of Governors. That community also worked on short-term rental regulations.

“It’s very difficult for government trying to legislate how to be a good neighbor,” Connolly said. Connolly added that while the consent requirement was well-intentioned, that requirement could create a host of unintended consequences.

“In Eagle-Vail, we felt that was beyond our ability to control,” he said.

Other council members said they had struggled with the idea of consent.

Mayor Dave Chapin noted that the idea of consent could affect the property rights of an owner who wants to rent out a unit. On the other hand, he added, unruly neighbors affect the property rights of full-time residents.

Chapin also wondered if the complaint process included in the regulations might effectively substitute for consent.

Under the new rules, three verified, town-adjudicated unresolved complaints in a year will void a short-term rental license.

Council member Jenn Bruno said complaints might ultimately be a quicker way to resolve disputes.

Council member Kevin Foley moved to approve the ordinance as presented on first reading.

But Moffet proposed amendments to eliminate neighbor consent and require 60-minute response times to complaints. The latter of those will essentially require owners to use property managers for their units in town.

Foley amended his motion, and the ordinance passed by a 7-0 vote.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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