$5,000 fine set for illegal vacation rentals in Douglas County
At least one new rule regarding vacation home rentals will extend beyond the boundaries of the Tahoe Township.
Under an ordinance approved by Douglas County commissioners on Thursday, anyone operating a rental without a permit could be subject to a $5,000 fine.
Commissioners approved stiffening rules governing vacation home rentals in the Tahoe Township, but expanding the ordinance to the East Fork Township could well be the other shoe.
Douglas County commissioners approved stricter rules dealing with Lake Tahoe’s ordinance on Thursday.
The rentals allow residents to rent out their homes up to 28 days and have been made popular by such websites as Air BnB.
The rentals are only allowed in the Tahoe Township, which the second reading of the ordinance on Thursday confirmed.
At the first reading of the ordinance on Aug. 2, Commissioner Nancy McDermid said that the vacation rules needed to extend into the East Fork Township or be eliminated entirely.
She indicated toughening the ordinance was good, but that it needed to apply to all of Douglas County or none of it.
The effort to expand vacation rentals to Carson Valley and the south county was placed on hold while the county gathers more input.
At the Aug. 2 meeting, Commissioner Barry Penzel said the rentals shouldn’t be limited to a specific area, but he favored not having them at all.
Commission Chairman Steve Thaler said that while more public outreach on the issue is important, he felt it was prejudicial to allow VHRs in Tahoe Township but not allow them in Carson Valley.
Planning commissioners and all three towns have said they think vacation rentals should not be expanded to East Fork.
McDermid said she felt there should be a 500-unit cap on the number of VHRs in Tahoe Township.
As of August there were 490 permitted rentals at Lake Tahoe.
Homeowners wishing to rent space to visitors in East Fork Township are currently required to obtain a permit for a bed and breakfast.
Homeowners are required to obtain a permit through the county and undergo a safety inspection.
Vacation rentals are required to pay transient occupancy and other taxes paid by hotels or inns.
The number of occupants allowed should not exceed two people per bedroom plus four more.
Advertisements for the rentals must include a permit number, and parking is limited to designated spaces.
The fee for vacation rentals was raised in July to $250 for renewals and $400 for a new permit, which should be sufficient to pay for additional inspections.
The ordinance requires new vacation rentals to be reviewed by the local homeowner’s association, town or district.
An agreement with a company to monitor compliance with the new ordinance was approved by county commissioners in July.
Host Compliance will charge the county $94,500, which Community Development Director Mimi Moss said will be offset by fees also approved by commissioners last week.
The company provides a 24/7 hotline people can call to ensure enforcement of the vacation rental rules.
South Lake Tahoe voters could see an initiative to phase out vacation home rentals in residential areas of the city.
Douglas County approved implementing the rental ordinance at Lake Tahoe in 2005 after the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency permitted them.
Those renting rooms to the same person month to month are not affected by the ordinance.
“I think, ultimately, it was a great awareness for these restaurants and it kind of gave them a little boost for the week,” says Cheree Boteler, event organizer.