City to county: Vacation rentals are your problem, too

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A short term rental near Blue Diamond courtesy iha.com
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A short term rental near Blue Diamond courtesy iha.com

A City of Las Vegas hotline set up to handle complaints about short-term rentals in city neighborhoods has received about 100 calls a month in its three-month existence. The problem – close to 80 percent of the calls reference properties in Clark County, where vacations rentals are banned, not Las Vegas.

Southern Nevada is home to nearly 7,000 short-term rentals, according to data obtained by the Current. Las Vegas, the only Southern Nevada entity to allow short-term rentals, has fewer than 400 properties licensed or in the process. The City Council is expected to amend its rules in December to further restrict short-term rentals.

A recent report by the Current on the saturation of unlicensed short-term rentals in Southern Nevada revealed the unregulated properties are costing governments an estimated $20 million a year in unpaid room tax.

“For us, this has never been about generating revenue,” says Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa. “Our residents want us to protect their neighborhood quality of life and that’s what we’re doing.”

“This is a thing that needs to be regulated,” said City Councilman Bob Coffin said at Wednesday’s council meeting. “The county is mistaken and it’s our problem because they are allowing this in county islands. The neighbor down the street may be a bad guy but he’s in the county.”

“The County’s approach to the short-term rental issue is one of protecting neighborhood integrity. We have had a multitude of complaints about the operation of short-term rentals disrupting neighborhood quality of life,” says Pappa.  “We ask anyone who has information about the illegal operation of short-term rentals to notify us and they should do so by filing a report online” at a county website.

In February, the County created a specialized team of six to deal with enforcement.  The county reports receiving 364 complaints filed between January and June.

“Since STREET started, in every case, a Rehabilitation Notice or a Courtesy Notice is sent to put the owner on notice that a violation exists or has been reported,” says Pappa. “Once a violation is confirmed and the owner fails to cease operation, STREET is aggressively pursuing compliance by placing liens on the property. It is a $1,000 fine for each day a violation occurs. Through June of this year, those liens have reached $286,000.”

The proposed amendments to be introduced at the City Council meeting November 21 will seek to further restrict short-term rentals.

“I really now believe that owner-occupied is the only way to go,” said Coffin. “If they’re not living there they don’t know, and they say ‘it’s my management team that should have responded.’”

Coffin also questioned the need for distance waivers if rentals are limited to owner-occupied homes, such as a bed and breakfast.

The amendments call for a 660-foot separation between licensed properties.

Vacation rentals, increasingly popular in the so-called “Sharing Economy,” are posing problems in a variety of tourism destinations.  Last month, San Diego repealed a recently imposed ban on short-term rentals. In South Lake Tahoe, a ballot measure to mostly ban vacation rentals appeared to be headed toward victory.

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.

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