Glenwood sets amnesty period before cracking down on illegal vacation units
Anyone offering a house or room for rent as a short-term vacation stay in Glenwood Springs who hasn’t formally registered for an operator’s permit and collection of Glenwood lodging and sales taxes has a month to do so before the city clamps down.
City Council on Thursday OK’d a 30-day amnesty period for owners of such units to file the appropriate online paperwork.
If brought into compliance, the city will not conduct unit inspections, but will require owners to sign an affidavit that certain safety features, such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, are in place, according to the amnesty resolution passed by the council. The city also will not collect taxes retroactively for past rentals.
“This puts the responsibility on the owner of the unit to comply,” Mayor Mike Gamba said. “If they still choose not to, we will enforce the rules.”
Currently, 58 short-term rental units are registered with the city, Assistant City Manager Jenn Ooton said. Another four “accessory tourist rentals,” or single bedrooms in a larger house that are available for rent, are also registered.
But a computer search of vacation rentals in Glenwood Springs on websites such as Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) typically reveals dozens more available units than that.
Before 2012, residential property owners in Glenwood were not allowed to rent units for less than 30 days at a time. With the growing popularity of online vacation rentals, and a recognition that it’s a viable income alternative for people who don’t want to deal with long-term leases, the city at that time began allowing them.
However, those overnight stays are subject to 3.5 percent Glenwood sales tax and separate 2.5 percent city accommodations tax, the same as commercial hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts are required to collect from guests and remit to the city.
City staff regularly monitors vacation rental sites to track any units that may not be permitted and are not collecting taxes.
“We do know of a handful of units that we periodically see online,” Ooton said. “We have been able to contact some of those owners, but not all of them. City Council wanted to offer an amnesty period to try to get those folks to come in and do the permit and obtain a tax license.”
Renting a residential property or bedroom without the proper business and tax licensing is punishable by fines of up to $1,000 per day, according to the municipal code.
“In the past, we have been inspecting the units for life-safety issues, but now we are just requiring an affidavit from the owners saying that they are complying with those things,” Ooton said.
The business permits are valid for two years. Owners whose permits are expiring after this year will be informed that the inspection is no longer necessary, she said.
Also on Thursday, City Council extended an ongoing amnesty for owners of unpermitted accessory dwelling units to avoid permit fees if they voluntarily place their units on the city’s books.
More information about permitting procedures for those and for vacation rentals can be found on the Community Development page of the Glenwood Springs city website, http://www.ci.glenwood-springs.co.us.