Guest column: A VHR owner’s perspective on what is happening in South Lake Tahoe (opinion)
June 19, 2018
I have been following the VHR news and comments. It appears that some view all VHR owners as irresponsible neighbors.
While I can't speak for all VHR owners, perhaps sharing our VHR's story will illustrate that perception is not always accurate. This is provided as one owner's perspective.
In 1978, four families partnered to purchase a Tahoe Keys condominium. Previously, we had visited Lake Tahoe as tourists. We fell in love with what Lake Tahoe offered. We wanted access to the Lake that a vacation home would provide us. From the outset, we were advised that we could, and we knew that we would, have to share our property with others. Rent it, that is. Renting to own, not for profit.
At first, we tried to manage our property ourselves. It didn't take long to learn that self management was challenging, especially from a distance. Next, we tried several management companies. Our goal was to find a manager who cared about our property and the Lake as much as we do.
We learned that most management companies have large inventories and our property would be lost in their inventory. Some were often unreliable when it came to things like a cleaning service or unavailable 24/7. Then we discovered a smaller, less diversified management company with firm Lake Tahoe ties. The firm has proven to be reliable, responsive, and available 24/7 for both us and our renters. A phone call away.
We rent our property in order to maintain it while sharing it with others. Our condo is not an investment property. Our four families have never taken a cash payout. In fact, we did not have a positive bank account until 2015. Our rental income has always been used to improve our property.
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Annually, we offer our local hospital foundation a week's rental for their fundraiser's silent auction. It's a donation that provides us no tax advantage. I mention the tax advantage only because the question will be asked.
When the city required a 2 percent increase in TOT, we said OK. After all, the revenue was targeted for city improvements. When we were asked to submit to a city inspection, we also said OK. If there were safety issues, we wanted to know. When the city and our POA both required rental permits to cover expenses, we didn't hesitate. Like permanent residents who have to meet their financial obligations, so then did we.
As already mentioned, we have owned our property for 40 years. We did not purchase to flip our property for financial gain. During our tenure at the Lake, we and our renters have contributed to SLT's economy. We employ a management company that in turn employs others and local businesses. We and our renters have patronized local restaurants and businesses. No merchant has ever refused our personal check or credit card. Our fiscal responsibility (TOT) to the city has always been paid on time. Cleaning services, plumbers and heating businesses have answered our call. Our property has never been cited for a violation — trash, noise or parking.
Pre-2017, prior to the current VHR discussions, we always urged our renters to not only respect our property but also realize that even temporary visitors have to be good neighbors. We want to be responsible SLT citizens.
When we have the opportunity to visit our property, we make an effort to reach out. Some of our neighbors are VHR owners; some are not. When we are at the Lake, we make it a point to visit our neighbors who are permanent residents as well as people who are renting other VHRs. Reaching out and being neighborly makes us and them comfortable.
So, this is us. I realize that I don't speak for all VHR owners. I only know what we have been and try to be.
We understand our status as temporary SLT residents. But we also believe that we care as much about the Lake as others.
Lake Tahoe is a special place. Keeping Lake Tahoe Blue isn't our motto, it's our purpose. Residents are fortunate to have chosen the Lake as their permanent homes. We love being your temporary neighbors and trust that we will continue to be welcomed into your community.
Gary Prucha is a resident in Lompoc, California. He co-owns a condominium in Tahoe Keys.