Inside Possible Changes for Short-Term Rentals in Denver

A “Bohemian chic” Airbnb listing in Denver.
A “Bohemian chic” Airbnb listing in Denver.
airbnb.com

If Denver City Council passes a controversial short-term-rental bill tonight, "STRs" would be legalized, but only if they operate out of a renters' primary residence. Any operating out of secondary properties would get the ax. 

The legislation would also impose lodging taxes on STRs and would require hosts to apply for business licenses and tax IDs. Hosts will also be required to post a registration ID number on their online profile so the city can better track STRs and more efficiently enforce any new laws. 

The bill was proposed by councilmember Mary-Beth Susman late last year. She has since toured the city, appearing in four meetings during February and garnering support largely from neighborhood groups while receiving plenty of criticism from STR advocates. Two amendments that would have supported hosts who rent out secondary properties have since died.

What would it mean for active STR hosts if the bill is passed tonight? Will they need to cancel reservations? Put their business on hold and immediately fear enforcement and fines that could reach as high as $999? Or will some hosts flee underground, denying the city additional tax revenue, as STR advocates have claimed will happen if the legislation is passed?

Cozy in Colorado.
Cozy in Colorado.
airbnb.com

Daniel Rowland, citywide communications adviser for the Department of Excise and Licenses, says that if the bill passes, STR hosts could obtain business licenses as early as July, but they will not be required to have one until January 1, 2017. 

"It's going to be a really big focus on education at the outset, but obviously once the requirements kicks in at the end of this year, we're going to be obligated and expected to enforce," Rowland says.

The department has dedicated a web page to the public outreach being done regarding the STR ordinance — a rarity for the licensing process, Rowland says.

Should the legislation pass, the web page will transition into a platform for educational material aimed at STR hosts. Hosts would be able to access a pre-application checklist, the actual application, and material on how to be a "compliant licensee." 

As for enforcement, Rowland says the department will continue to work with neighborhood groups and inspectors and respond to complaints, which he says have increased since the bill was introduced.  

Rowland adds that "nothing's set in stone," noting that an STR advisory board of various stakeholders, including STR advocates, will be set up to monitor the ordinance and assess any necessary changes.

STR advocates like Shahla Hebets will continue to engage city council if the bill is passed tonight. Hebets is the president of the Denver Short Term Rental Alliance, a group formed last year that represents over 100 STR hosts, many of whom rent out secondary properties.

Shahla Hebets, an STR host, founded the Denver Short Term Rental Alliance.
Shahla Hebets, an STR host, founded the Denver Short Term Rental Alliance.
Jim Narcy

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Ahead of tonight's vote, DSTRA collected over 830 signatures in a petition opposing council's current ordinance.

A June 9 press release said, "While DSTRA applauds legislators for recognizing the importance of STRs to Denver, we urge City Council to change the ordinance as proposed to reflect the rights of our city's many secondary homeowners."

"If the city council passes the STR regulations with the discriminatory primary residency restriction included, then local homeowners will be forced to close their doors, which will hurt neighborhood economies," she adds.

"Of equal concern, it will be a clear sign to tourists and others visiting Denver that their needs and accommodation requirements are not important to city officials. It will be a sad day for our progressive city. "

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