The City of Denver battled a short-term rental operator on Thursday, January 17, during an administrative hearing that lasted the entire day.
Neighbors of Airbnb host Garth Yettick's Marion Manor began notifying the city in May 2018 that Yettick was violating the requirement that a property being used for short-term rentals must also be the primary residence of the rental operator. Chris Gaddis, a city attorney representing the case, brought by the Department of Excise and Licenses, argued that Yettick's short-term rental license should be revoked. Yettick, who has owned the home on Marion Street near the Denver Country Club since 2004, disagreed, claiming that he never violated the rule.
It was a first-of-its-kind hearing for the city; historically, alleged violators of short-term rental regulations have either come into compliance or lost their licenses through settlements with the city.
Marion Manor has six bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms and a large outdoor pool and patio. According to Zillow, the 7,787-square-foot-home, built in 1887, is worth more than $4.4 million. Yettick lists it on Airbnb for around $1,000 per night, excluding cleaning and service fees and occupancy taxes.
Kim Chandler, a local attorney who served as the hearing officer for the proceedings, will issue a recommendation sometime next week on how the City of Denver should proceed; both sides will then have a chance to respond to her suggestion. Excise and Licenses director Ashley Kilroy will consider both Chandler's recommendation and each side's response before making a final decision on whether a violation occurred.
The department has been licensing operators of short-term rentals since the beginning of 2017. In order to be granted a license, an applicant must rent out his or her primary residence, which the city defines as "a residence which is the usual place of return for housing as documented by at least two of the following: motor vehicle registration, driver's license, Colorado state identification card, voter registration, tax documents, or a utility bill. A person can only have one primary residence." The requirement is one way to discourage people from buying up homes in Denver solely to convert them into short-term rentals.
At the hearing, Yettick said he had provided the city with all the necessary documentation to prove that Marion Manor was his primary residence. Gaddis argued that anyone could easily get a utility bill or a voter-registration card for an address.
Neighbors testified that they rarely, if ever, saw Yettick on the property since he got his short-term rental license in the summer of 2017. They claimed that renters sometimes ruined the neighborhood's serenity with loud pool parties and outdoor drinking games.
Ryan Lanning, a doctor who lives across the street, described a week-long frat party where people wore robes and drank out of red cups. "After that visit, there were a bunch of plumbing trucks coming," Lanning said. The neighbors and city argued that these sort of disturbances wouldn't happen if the house was Yettick's primary residence, which they believe is actually a $2.1 million condo on Fillmore Street that Yettick purchased in the summer of 2017. Yettick's girlfriend works from home in the condo, which is across the street from his office in Cherry Creek. He also owns a $4.4 million condo in Vail.
“He’s definitely not living [on Marion]. It’s definitely not a primary residence. ... I mean, I visit my parents in California more than I see him returning to that house," said Lanning's wife, Gina Lanning.
Yettick and his witnesses testified that he frequently travels for work, which is one of the reasons neighbors never see him on the property. When he's in Denver, Yettick stays at his house on Marion Street more often than he stays at his Cherry Creek condo, he said, and only uses the condo when Marion Manor is rented.
Yettick expressed strong sentimental attachment to the home on Marion Street. "It’s the only place that I’ve had a Christmas tree," he said, adding that it's where he wants to spend the rest of his life and raise kids. He only rents out Marion Manor to help pay for its high maintenance costs, he explained.
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Witnesses for Yettick said he is a workaholic and has an erratic schedule, arriving and leaving home at odd hours. Yettick also pointed to his divorce and recent job promotion as reasons that neighbors saw less of him.
Witnesses from both sides admitted that Yettick has never had relationships with any of the neighbors. "I didn’t recognize a single one of them," Yettick said about the neighbors who testified on behalf of the city.
If Excise and Licenses decides against Yettick, he can appeal in district court.
The department is working on strengthening regulations for short-term rentals that would ramp up insurance requirements and specify possible reasons for license revocation. The regulations should go into effect in early February.