Lakewide property owners balk at possible vacation rental regulation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lakewide property owners balk at possible vacation rental regulation

Matthew Renda
mrenda@tahoedailytribune.com

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – South Shore vacation rental business owners said the current regulatory environment regarding vacation rentals is sufficient and are distancing themselves from restrictions like billing homeowners for law enforcement calls and banning minimum stay requirements, which are being considered in other parts of California.

And local vacation rental business owners on the North Shore said restrictions could drastically curb revenue and lower property values.

Greta Hambsch, Manager of the Accommodation Station in South Lake Tahoe, said vacation renters pay an annual permitting fee, a per night Transit Occupancy Tax and rental property owners are subject to fines if their guests abuse local services such as fire or police.

The South Lake Tahoe City Code has an extensive section – Chapter 28B of the code – dedicated to setting forth industry regulations.

“South Lake Tahoe already has strict regulations in place relating to vacation rentals,” she said. “I think the regulations have hurt business.”

When Hambsch said the restrictions hurt business, she does not mean the vacation rental industry exclusively, and said the city’s economy is very dependent on tourism and all of the seemingly separate sectors are actually inextricably intertwined.

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“Strict regulations hurt the vacation rental business, which in turn has a dire impact on the restaurant industry and other sectors,” she said. “We are all, to some extent, dependent on tourism.”

Hambsch said she is concerned that such strict regulations send the wrong message to potential visitors.

“We don’t want to discourage tourists from coming to Tahoe with a groundswell of anti-vacation rental sentiment,” she said.

Local vacation rental business owners on the North Shore said restrictions could drastically curb revenue and lower property values.

“It could probably kill us in terms of desirability,” said Charles White, owner/broker of Donner Lake Realty based in Truckee. “Who would buy a vacation place if they couldn’t rent it?”

Similar restrictions have not passed in Incline Village, and are being considered by Santa Cruz County supervisors as well as areas in Southern California. The proposals being considered ask landlords to pay for the cost of law enforcement responses when problems arise, according to reports by the Associated Press, and ban big events like wedding receptions and eliminate requirements that guests stay at least one week.

Gordon Meyer, owner of vacation rentals based in Incline Village, agreed with White’s assessment of the impact on real estate.

“It would have a negative effect on property values,” said Meyer. “If owners can’t get sufficient rental income, they won’t be able to sell it as a potential rental property.”

Meyer said if the local communities around the lake were not so dependent upon tourist dollars, regulations might not be as potentially harmful to business owners.

“It affects everything,” said Meyer.

Meyer said responding to noise complaints or late-night parties is part of what residents pay law enforcement to do.

Nevertheless, he believes it is up to individual property owners to carefully screen renters.

“You have to rent to responsible parties,” he said.

White said the people responsible for having the police come to the property – the tenants – should be accountable for reimbursement of law enforcement should any penalties be incurred.

“The people that created the crime should pay,” he said.

Both Meyer and White said occasions of excessive parties, noise or criminal behavior are rare in Truckee/Tahoe, and usually happen around holiday weekends such as July 4, when such activities are not unique to vacation destinations.

“We would be hurting ourselves to allow things to get out of control,” said White.