Douglas County settles vacation rental lawsuit

Kurt Hildebrand
Record Courier

STATELINE, Nev. — After rejecting a vacation home rental settlement offer in January, county commissioners voted 5-0 to approve a new deal last week.

The deal preserved an up to $20,000 fine for those found in willful violation of the county’s new ordinance and reduced the deadline multiple vacation rental property owners have to divest themselves of their extra rentals to Oct. 1, 2024.

Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Doug Ritchie said that the nine plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit filed in July 2021 agreed those illegally operating with no intent of complying should face a harsher penalty.

The settlement also includes applying similar penalties for property managers who help owners rent outside the rules.

“All parties agreed that a property manager assisting in the illegal operation of a VHR should be subject to the penalty,” Ritchie said.

County commissioners will still have to approve changes to the vacation rental ordinance next month.

After that modification, the county’s vacation home rental will have three months to come up with revisions to the ordinance before county commissioners will be permitted to make alterations without a recommendation.

Vacation home rentals are limited to Tahoe Township and are prohibited in the rest of Douglas County. The ordinance divides rentals into three tiers based on their capacity.

Tier 1 rentals are the smallest and are not included in the ordinance’s 600-permit cap, which survived the negotiations.

Under the settlement, each side will pay its own legal fees.

County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian who was involved in the second round of negotiations said that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit sustained serious costs in their effort.

“The fact is the terms of this settlement are very, very advantageous to the county,” he said.

Douglas County has been working on a vacation home rental ordinance for five years.

A 15-member task force that first met in April 2019, worked for more than a year to come up with recommendations for the new ordinance. That report was provided to county commissioners in October 2020 where the board made around 50 policy decisions.

Genoa resident Dan Aynesworth, who was a member of the task force, urged commissioners to approve the settlement.

Vacation home rentals have become an issue across the country as homeowners in popular tourist locations rent out their homes through online services to visitors.

Concerns about health, safety and allowing neighbors the quiet enjoyment of their homes have been key in establishing rules in jurisdictions around the Tahoe Basin.

Limiting vacation rentals in neighborhoods were the subject of a voter initiative in South Lake Tahoe in 2018.

As part of its vacation home rental ordinance, Douglas County established an advisory panel that hears requests for tier 3 properties, which are the most intense use.

That panel is also working on revisions to the ordinance approved in June 2021 and that partially took effect the following month after nine Tahoe vacation rental owners took the county to federal court.

The map of where VHRs are in Douglas County.

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