Berenson: Short-term rentals, long-term effects
My Deer Boulevard neighbors in EagleVail represent different demographics. We’re single/married, raising families/empty nesters, vegetarians/hunters, retired/working as electricians, doctors, nurses, teachers, landscapers, waiters, yoga teachers, massage therapists, builders, professional athletes, and freelancers. But what we have in common is bigger than age or income: a love of the restorative, beautiful mountains that are our home.
None of us ended up here by accident. For most, it took years of planning and no small sacrifice. We know we’re lucky, and that creates a simpatico — a kind of shared sense of gratitude — I’ve never experienced anywhere else. We watch out for each other’s pets and plants, keep each other apprised of weather and wildlife activity, and respect each other’s quirks and schedules — we know who has to wake up at 4 am for work. Sometimes, it’s us.
But in the last two years, changes have started creeping in. Two nearby duplexes once occupied by long-term tenants are now exclusively rented short-term, and a third was built to generate investment income for the owners, who live in Denver and list it on Airbnb. According to that listing, each unit accommodates 12 adults, and parties and events are allowed. This means that at any given time, up to 24 adults can be in this duplex, inviting still more people over for a party. It gets loud.
Of course, we full-time residents are noisy sometimes, too. But since we have jobs to go to the next day, and because we care about our neighbors, we don’t throw 12 big parties every month. But rotating groups of vacationers, celebrating a guys’ weekend, bridal shower, or bachelor party? They don’t care who they impact. And when the owners live out of town and problems arise, it puts us cranky, sleep-deprived neighbors in the de facto role of property manager, which is wholly unfair.
We all chose this neighborhood and paid more for homes not next to businesses for a reason: the peaceful, quiet enjoyment of a residential mountain community. How is a duplex that rents short-term to large groups hosting big parties any different from a commercial banquet hall? And why do zoning laws regulate one but not the other?
Noise issues aside, unregulated short-term rentals have a serious long-term negative impact on a community. They displace people who want to live here, exacerbating our valley’s already challenging housing situation. Groups of strangers coming and going every week disrupt the rhythm and security of a neighborhood. And unregulated short-term rentals create unfair competition for legally zoned hotels.
That’s why short-term rentals are banned in New York City, Las Vegas, and the entire country of Japan, and closely regulated in dozens of other cities around the world. (My favorite from LA: “Hosts may not rent their property unless it’s their primary home, where they spend at least six months out of the year.” I bet those hot tubs wouldn’t be full of drunk bros dropping f-bombs at 1 a.m. if the owners lived in the adjoining unit.)
Additional regulations include limiting the number of days per year a unit can be rented, from 30 (Amsterdam) to 90 (San Francisco, New Orleans) to 120 (Los Angeles, Paris). Violations result in everything from fines to suspension of the right to rent.
Here in the valley, short-term rentals are banned in Singletree and Wildridge. Vail and Avon recently created specific ordinances to mitigate their impact on residents. Though current EagleVail ordinances specifically ban bed-and-breakfast rentals, renting single rooms, and renting to more than four adults not related to each other, these are clearly ignored by property owners and unenforced by our POA.
I don’t think short-term rentals are bad. When I travel, I use Airbnb and love it. But I do believe that when the mission is to “keep a community safe and pleasant” and its “property values protected,” unregulated short-term rentals are very bad indeed. And EagleVail needs actionable, enforceable regulations specific to this model — regulations that are fair to property owners, respectful of residents, and that protect the quality of life that drew us all here in the first place. And we need them now.
Madeleine Berenson is a ski instructor and writer whose pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wine Spectator, and The MOTH podcast, among others. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org