Neighbors make noise about noisy vacationers
Property managers and owners came out in full force with disturbed residents Monday to a meeting at the South Lake Tahoe City Council chambers to present their views on a drafted vacation home rental ordinance.
At issue is how to deal with obnoxious renters who make too much noise, overflow the units, take up too many parking spaces and leave excessive trash — without infringing on the property rights of those who entrust their livelihoods to the industry.
A subcommittee, which includes councilmembers Judy Brown and Hal Cole, will take the recommended outcome of the ordinance to the City Council. The draft places a portion of the responsibility on property managers and homeowners who rent their dwellings as vacation homes.
The committee held the third in a series of public workshops to discuss the matter at the standing-room-only meeting.
Little mention was made of the previous workshop’s main thrust — whether vacation-home rentals are legal under the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s planning area statement.
But this discussion was as multi-faceted as the issue — from some declaring no need for added regulation to others seeking equity given to permanent renters.
Still, this is only the beginning in an issue deemed difficult and complex.
The list of horror stories from neighbors has expanded to vacationers using bullhorns to talk; erecting a Bud Light sign; a house occupying 14 college students; and parking recreational vehicles out in front to accommodate more tenants.
The city wants to put some teeth behind its existing codes with the enforcement manpower now in place.
Current codes are tough to enforce given the city police manpower and due process on visitors who leave the area.
Dick Powers, who’s been bothered by vacation-home renters, started the process about two years ago.
“I don’t think it’s practical to try to regulate parties who don’t live here,” he said.
The level of frustration has been high among those neighbors living next door to problem rentals. Police Sgt. Rich McGuffin said he’s even heard of incidents in which residents have been driven into taking the law into their own hands, but there’s no record of such calls.
On the table but not close to its final phase, the city is considering issuing permits to rental agents or homeowners as a tool to track hotspots. The permit may be revoked if there are repeated complaints on the house. The cost of the permit is unknown.
The Tahoe Keys has been mentioned most often as a problem area in need of better enforcement — but abuses in other neighborhoods have also come up.
“I think it’s not fair to single out the Keys. I first became aware of this problem from a house on Keller (Avenue) near Heavenly,” Brown said.
The city also wants to enforce the level of occupancy. Talk of two people per bedroom plus two extra occupants was mentioned, but it became fleeting as the meeting was quickly diverted to other issues such as the responsible parties and the validity of the problem.
Property rights advocate Jim Morris, a Tahoe Keys resident, suggested some people “go to Sun City” to live and asked the city to reconsider going forward with its proposal.
Noise — the most common complaint — requires residents disturbed by loud renters to call the police and sign a complaint. People rarely want to do that, McGuffin said.
The complaint requires court appearances by visitors who are no longer in the area.
In the majority of cases, though, McGuffin said the problem is rectified by an officer’s knock on the door.
But the problem arises again when a new tenant comes to town, facilitator Fred Mercado of the city’s legal department pointed out.
With the draft ordinance, the first complaint may result in a warning or citation to the tenant.
On the third complaint, a property owner may be fined $250 with the right to appeal. The fourth complaint may double the fine, and it could re-double on the fifth.
Six complaints within a 120-day period would revoke a rental owner permit.
“I think what this ordinance is trying to address are the abuses,” Brown said. “Whatever approach we bring to the council will be reasonable.”
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