Update: The approved ordinance will go into effect at the end of October 2020.
After an Aug. 3 city council vote, short-term rentals can legally operate in Arvada.
Short-term rentals or STRs — rentals for 30 days or less often leased through sites like Airbnb and VRBO — were previously not permitted under the Arvada city code. The city has been working to update the code in order to regulate STRs given that, by the city’s estimate, around 300 STRs are operating within city limits, said city planning manager Rob Smetana.
The council previously voted on an ordinance to allow the rentals but deadlocked with a 3-3 vote on Oct. 21, 2019.
Councilmembers David Jones, John Marriot, and Mark McGoff voted yes and councilmembers Bob Fifer, Nancy Ford and Mayor Marc Williams voted no. Councilmember Dot Miller was absent. Since the vote, McGoff finished his term on council and councilmember Lauren Simpson was elected to the seat.
Following the deadlock, the city has researched potential changes, reworked the ordinance and met with the city council to incorporate councilmembers’ ongoing feedback into a new ordinance, which the council voted on Aug. 3.
A major change from the Oct. 21 ordinance to the Aug. 3 ordinance was a new limitation to the number of STRs one person could operate. Under the latest ordinance, one individual can operate no more than three STRs in the city at any given time.
Further, a single property can only be used as an STR for 240 nights of the year.
The city also provided councilmembers with detailed information on how the code enforcement department or police department will address calls from residents claiming a nearby STR is in violation of the city code.
Council has been somewhat split as they have continued to follow the issue and hear from their constituents.
Councilmember Ford said at the Aug. 3 meeting that while she has heard support of the legalization of STRs, those who support it are typically part of the group that will be renting or leasing an STR.
“(For) those who would live next to them, nobody has really said they want to live next to a short-term rental,” she said, referring to the fact that some fear when homes are used as an STR, the properties can fall into disrepair or attract renters using the home to party.
“I think it would be wiser to start off with one (STR per individual, as opposed to three) to see how it goes here in Arvada,” she said, “but because we’re not doing that, it forces me to vote `no’ on this issue.”
On the other side, councilmembers including John Marriott have held that the approval of STRs is necessary for multiple reasons. It adds another legal option for those who come by an extra property, such as the person who inherits a property or the couple who finds themselves with two homes after marriage, he said.
He and councilmember Jones added that in their experience, those operating STRs work to keep their property in good condition because it attracts more business.
“This is already going on and has been going on in our community for a long time and it’s completely unregulated; there (is) no licensing, no tax being collected, no penalties,” Marriott said. “This, I believe, brings into compliance an existing situation that clearly there is a market for.”
The night of the vote, councilmember Ford proposed another change to the new ordinance: that all STR owners be required to give renters a city-provided pamphlet explaining what they must do as a short-term renter to comply with the city code. Included might be requirements related to noise, parking and other relevant topics.
Ford’s proposed change was incorporated into the ordinance by council.
Council then approved the ordinance with a 6-1 vote, with Ford voting no and all others voting yes.
Three STRs per person
Smetana said the city plans to have STR operators sign a document stating they are not operating more than three STRs within city limits. Potentially, the city may require operators to have this document notarized.
Councilmember Simpson also asked the city to explore requiring individuals to provide the address of their primary residence when registering an STR. The change may prevent individuals from trying to get around the limitation by licensing STRs under different LLCs, she said.
Individuals are required to get a license through the city before they can operate an STR.
The city’s community and economic development director, Ryan Stachelski, said the city may employ a third party to investigate whether an individual without a license is accepting reservations for an STR.
If the city comes across this situation, it would follow a similar process to the process followed when a business without a license is found operating in Arvada, said Sgt. Gabe Evans of the Arvada Police Department.
First, the city’s finance department will contact the individual and ask him or her to apply for a license. If the person chooses not to submit an application and continues to operate the STR, the code enforcement department will issue a citation or summons.
Fines and penalties
Under the ordinance, if an STR operator is found in violation of the code, the city will provide notice to the operator. Depending on the violation, the code enforcement department may give an individual two to four weeks to become compliant with the code before making a follow-up visit to the property, said Sgt. Gabe Evans of the Arvada Police Department.
If the violation is resolved, the department will close the case. Otherwise, on a case-by-case basis, the city may choose to issue a citation, he said.
The city may impose a fine of $150 for the first violation, $300 for the second and $1,000 for the third.
With all violations, the city can also issue an order requiring the STR owner to take any necessary actions to bring their property back into compliance.
For a particularly egregious violation, the city may revoke an STR license. A license will also be revoked after three violations.
As for violations that need immediate attention — such as a noise complaint — the patrol division of the police department will handle those situations, Evans said.
“There are a lot of different actions they can take immediately to address those,” he said.