Boulder: City to Regulate Residential Vacation Rentals

The Boulder City Council wants to regulate the use of residential properties for vacation rental – and it also wants owners to pay taxes. Research by City staff shows the practice has expanded in the last six years. In 2008, City staff found 21 properties actually located in the City were marketed as short-term vacation rentals. By December 2014, staff confirmed 514 of these properties were for rent in Boulder.

Supporters for the practice say it contributes to the economic vitality of the community by bringing more visitors and provide revenue streams that allow middle-class people to afford to live in Boulder. Staff argues it encourages marijuana tourism because residential vacation rentals provide a place for marijuana tourists to consume their purchases legally (seriously?).

Opponents say short-term rentals erode neighborhood character and take housing that would otherwise be available to people who live and work in Boulder off the market. The hotel industry is subject to significant regulation both at the City and the State level. Hotel owners pay accommodation tax on every room rental. Residential vacation rentals do not pay taxes and do not comply with health and safety regulations. This creates an unfair playing field motels and hotels who are complying with the law.

After discussion the Council decided to move forward with a ballot measure in November, which if approved, will allow the City to tax short-term rentals.  In the meantime staff will craft regulations. One of the regulations on which Council agreed in principle is a limit on the number of days a property can be rented, but coming to consensus on that magic number will be challenging.

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