Grand County to begin fining noncompliant STRs |

Grand County to begin fining noncompliant STRs

Nearly six months after the county started seriously looking at short-term rental compliance, penalties could soon be imposed on noncompliant units in unincorporated Grand.

When County Planner Taylor Schlueter approached county commissioners back in late July, he said there were about 915 active short-term rentals in unincorporated Grand County, and over half of them — 493 units — were unregistered. Short-term rentals are required to obtain a permit annually, according to county regulations.

At the time, the county commissioners seriously considered a moratorium on new short-term rental licenses. After hearing extensive feedback from the community, including concerns over communication with short-term rental operators, commissioners decided to focus on increasing compliance without the moratorium.

Since then, the county has put together a short-term rental workgroup comprised of community members, first-responders and short-term rental operators. The commissioners also named Christian Hornbaker the county’s short-term rental coordinator.

The work group had a goal of bringing short-term rental compliance up to 90% in unincorporated Grand by the end of the year. According to Hornbaker’s update to commissioners on Tuesday, roughly 250 units remain noncompliant while 700-800 units are now in compliance, equal to about 75% of short-term rentals in unincorporated Grand.

A warning letter was sent out to noncompliant operators at the beginning of November, and Hornbaker said about 40 units in the last month said they would not continue operating STRs. Nearly 90 more have signed up for renewals.

On Tuesday, commissioners provided direction to Hornbaker to begin fining short-term rental owners who remain noncompliant.

According to county regulations, following a warning, a second short-term rental infraction allows for a $500 fine, a third is a $1,000 fine and a fourth would be a one-year permit suspension.

Hornbaker said conversations with representatives of the major short-term rental hosting sights VRBO and Airbnb indicated a willingness to pull down listings of noncompliant rentals. While nothing has been guaranteed yet, a noncompliant short-term rental that has been fined could potentially see its listing taken off the host website until it resolves the issue.

There was also discussion Tuesday about increasing fines and fees for short-term rentals. The commissioners had previously expressed interest in adjusting fines and fees by the end of the year, but it was not immediately clear if that would be possible.

Hornbaker said that an overhaul of fees would have to be a much bigger discussion. The workgroup’s second goal was to engage a countywide nexus study to define the effects of short-term rental saturation on the community. With other resort communities engaging these studies, it may be unnecessary.

County Attorney Chris Leahy added that the county might be justified in raising fees without a study, as short-term rental regulation currently costs the county more than existing fees bring in. However, there was also some question about what a process for fee adjustment would look like.

The fines that may soon be levied against noncompliant short-term rentals will be based on the county’s already-existing fine structure, and could start being issued soon. Further discussion with the commissioners on short-term rentals is expected later this month.

Hornbaker added that talks continue with first responders in the county. The third goal of the workgroup was to establish a safety compliance for short-term rentals to be incorporated into the licensing process.

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