Council debates short-term rental regulations

Officials take first crack at rules to govern Airbnb-style rooms and homes

Posted 8/6/18

Littleton officials are kicking off efforts to regulate the city’s dozens of largely unlicensed rooms, apartments and homes listed on sites like Airbnb. City councilmembers discussed a number of …

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Council debates short-term rental regulations

Officials take first crack at rules to govern Airbnb-style rooms and homes

Posted

Littleton officials are kicking off efforts to regulate the city’s dozens of largely unlicensed rooms, apartments and homes listed on sites like Airbnb.

City councilmembers discussed a number of possible rules for short-term rentals at the July 31 study session, signaling support for ideas like setting licensing requirements and occupancy limits, and debating whether such rentals should be the primary residence of the owner.

City council is working to establish a framework before the end of a 90-day moratorium period on new business licenses for short-term rentals imposed on July 17. The moratorium followed a flurry of complaints from neighbors of a south Littleton house, who discovered the city’s policy on such rentals was largely obsolete and rarely enforced. Though 10 short-term rentals in Littleton currently have business licenses, dozens more do not.

Councilmembers unanimously supported requiring permits for short-term rentals, and largely agreed with the idea of requiring the permits to be renewed annually.

“I like annual renewals because the details are so important to neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Jerry Valdes. “If we let these go for two or three years without checking in, that could be too long. We could have a lot of complaints, and those could be addressed at renewal time.”

Bringing the 10 currently licensed short-term rentals into compliance with the new code would likely be a priority.

“It’s only 10,” said Councilmember Kyle Schlachter. “It won’t be hard for them. They’re already playing by the rules.”

Council unanimously agreed that all rentals, even individual bedrooms in occupied homes, should require a permit before being listed online.

Among the more nebulous answers was whether council wanted to restrict what parts of town would allow short-term rentals.

Councilmember Karina Elrod said limiting such rentals to certain zoning areas could create more problems.

“If we just allow it in small areas, you’ll end up with most of the rentals in that part of town, and then you’ve changed the dynamic of that neighborhood,” Elrod said. “If you open it up broader it becomes more scattered and doesn’t change things as much.”

Homeowners’ associations and covenant communities would still be free to restrict short-term rentals, though enforcement would be up to them, said City Attorney Steve Kemp.

Council was somewhat divided and unsure on whether to require that short-term rentals be the owner’s primary residence.

“Say my primary residence is in Maui,” Schlachter said. “If I have a home here and I want to rent it out half the year, I shouldn’t be restricted because my current residence is somewhere else.”

Councilmember Carol Fey disagreed, saying that a primary residence requirement helps ensure safety and accountability.

“It’s somebody who’s invested in this place and wants to see it taken care of,” Fey said. “They don’t want it to be a party house.”

Council unanimously agreed on the idea of occupancy and parking limits, but was unsure on how those would be determined. Council was also unanimous on requiring that all short-term rental contracts include a copy of city regulations, and that all permit holders be required to list a local contact reachable around the clock.

The 90-day moratorium period wraps up in October. A public hearing on short-term rental regulations has not yet been scheduled.

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