Facing affordable housing challenges, cities in Idaho — from Boise to Ketchum — are considering ordinances they hope will help them manage a growing number of short-term rentals, without veering into a legal gray area in under Idaho law.
Ketchum City Council could vote on its proposed rules at a meeting this afternoon. They would require owners of short-term rentals to obtain a special operating permit and sign the health and safety measures.
Ketchum’s order closely resembles rules already in place at McCall, which require owners of short-term rentals to obtain business licenses and sign a “declaration of compliance” since January 2020.
Commercial licenses are $125 for the first application and $25 each year for renewal. They ensure rentals are subject to McCall’s 7% local option tax for all accommodation. Each landlord only needs to obtain one permit, so property rental companies can operate multiple rentals under one license.
The statement is a checklist from the owners stating that the rental will allow no more than one parking space per bedroom, that it will allow no more than four people for each bedroom, and that it acknowledges that the hours of quiet hours are between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. among others.
It also says the owners will post these rules so guests are aware. If an owner wishes to open the unit to more than 19 people, they must obtain a special conditional use permit.
“It’s the same way a hotel has to provide certain things that aren’t just a bed to sleep in,” said Meredith Todd, McCall’s assistant city planner. “They have to provide security and the ability to be a good steward of a place.”
Todd said McCall’s short-term rental rules were meant to strike a balance. The city knows that residents who own short-term rentals use the properties as a source of income in the face of rising property taxes and the cost of living, and the funds raised through the local option tax benefit the city. .
He also heard from residents before the rules came into effect who were frustrated with an increasing number of rentals in their neighborhoods. During these deliberations, citizens mentioned intoxicated people wandering the streets, an intrusive number of cars parked in front of a residence, and houses with only a few rooms listed for twenty guests.
Todd said the most important aspects of the business license and compliance statement requirement are the city’s ability to respond to concerns that arise and the data the city is able to collect.
“We’ve realized that having a record of where short-term rentals are and who to contact if there’s a problem is so important,” Todd said.
For example, she knows that 488 rentals are authorized by the city. So if she goes to rental websites and sees more than that, she knows how many are non-compliant. It can also tell if certain neighborhoods have more rentals than others.
“It can really inform our planning practices and policies going forward,” Todd said.
The city also uses the contact information listed on the forms when neighbors call with concerns, such as if a guest is illegally parked or improperly using bear-proof trash cans.
“It allows us to have concrete information to contact the owner and say, ‘Hey, remember you agreed to your business license and through your declaration of compliance, that was what your property could provide,'” Todd said.
Enforcement, she said, is largely reactionary, driven by complaints. McCall’s civil code violations could technically result in fines of less than $1,000 a day, but city staff tend to mediate when things go wrong.
Todd said McCall is watching how other cities in Idaho decide to approach short-term rentals in case she wants to make changes. She said figuring out what works is an iterative process.
Find journalist Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
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