Town of Vail getting closer to new, tighter regulations for short-term rentals

Vail's current short-term rules require unit owners to buy a business license from the town and to pay sales and lodging taxes for every night a unit is rented. Those rules now are among the most lax of resort communities.
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What’s next?

After a series of public meetings, the Vail Town Council on Sept. 19 will get its first look at an ordinance regulating short-term rentals in town. For more information, go to

VAIL — Since roughly the time there were homes at the base of Vail Mountain, property owners have rented out their places during ski season and summer. But the rise of online rental services means town officials are looking at new regulations.

After a summer of public meetings and research, the Vail Town Council will this month will get its first look at an ordinance creating new regulations for short-term rentals, especially those rented online.

During Tuesday’s meeting, council members talked with town finance director Kathleen Halloran, who’s leading the regulation project. That discussion focused on what new regulations might include.

Those regulations are likely to include:

• Creating an educational program to get more owners to obtain the currently required town business and sales tax licenses.

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• Eliminating the current 14-day exemption for owners renting their units. Owners would be required to have proper town licenses from the first night of rental.

• Requiring owners to submit annual affidavits that they have proper safety equipment in their units, including smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, as well as fire extinguishers.

• Requiring unit owners to have local contacts for problems and emergencies.

Public Favors Tighter Parameters

During an August council meeting, public comment was split between unit owners and those who favor more strict regulations. Residents who spoke Tuesday all favored tighter regulations.

Sheila and Dennis Linn own a half-duplex and urged the council to require the consent of co-owners before issuing business license to those who want to rent out those units.

Sheila Linn told council members about a couple of “scary” experiences with short-term renters last ski season, including large parties and renters scrawling political slogans in the snow.

Longtime resident Joe Staufer urged the council to limit short-term rentals to areas that are already zoned for commercial use.

“By issuing business licenses in residential neighborhoods, you’re … driving working people out of town,” he said.

Staufer’s son, Jonathan, is a former property manager. He encouraged the town to require local contacts, people who can be reached at 2 a.m. if needed. He also urged annual fire inspections and told council members that homes being used for lodging should pay property taxes at the commercial rate, which is significantly higher than the residential rate.

Council members rejected the need for in-person inspections.

“We can’t be going into every unit,” council member Dick Cleveland said. “If, God forbid, something happens … it’s on (the owner). If we start doing inspections, we take liability.”

Form of Land Use?

As the town creates new regulations, it will probably have to identify short-term rentals as a formal land use in the town’s zoning codes.

Resident Beth Plzak told the council that the term “short-term rental” only occurs in the town zoning code in reference to lodges in the central business district.

Still, there’s a long history of owners renting their places. Plzak asked why that’s allowed.

In an email sent after the meeting, Vail Town Attorney Matt Mire wrote that short-term rentals have “never been considered a separate land use in the town code. … A single-family dwelling has always been allowed to be rented short or long term without reclassifying the use.”

But, Mire added, he expects “‘short-term rental’ will be a new land use added to the town code and distinguished in the various zone districts.”

As the council considers new regulations, council member Jenn Bruno said people on both sides of the issue have good points to make.

“I think we can find a balance,” she said.

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

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