Vacation renters have a place in South Lake
Whenever a few people cause trouble it seems like everyone has to pay the consequences. And so South Lake Tahoe finds itself in the unenviable position of having to deal with unruly vacationers.
Last week the council approved the first reading of an ordinance that is designed to bring some oversight to an industry that for the most part has been self-regulated. If it is approved at the Dec. 10 council meeting, the ordinance will become law.
Between now and then the makeup of the council will change as the two newly elected members take office. In the interim, council members Hal Cole and Judy Brown will review a list of 13 points that a group of property managers brought up at the meeting last week.
One item the managers question is the need to limit vacation home renters to parking just on the property and forbidding them from parking on the street.
Clearly, filling up all the vacant spots on a street would prohibit others from their regular spots. Maybe the renters could be told that the current little known city rule is no on-street parking year-round and let them take the same chance people do every day with the possibility of being ticketed.
Vacation rentals are a way of life at any tourist destination. It is often a more pleasant experience to rent a condo or house than it is to stay in a hotel for a week. It offers more privacy, the option to eat in and a more homey feel. We want those things when we travel and we should provide them for people traveling to South Lake Tahoe.
Yes, there are bad renters. There are bad vacation renters and bad year-round renters. There are bad vacation homeowners and bad year-round homeowners.
The beautiful thing about the vacation renter is that they leave in pretty short order. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the person on your street who does not take care of his yard or has vehicles in disrepair junking up the neighborhood.
In other words, the ills that come with vacation home renters are temporary. This is not to say we condone abhorrent behavior. In a perfect world people would behave as good neighbors wherever they are. We know this is not happening.
No one wants to put up with unruly neighbors. But there are noise ordinances in place that police officers can enforce.
Perhaps some oversight is necessary. We just hope the council is not hurting the city to appease the few who have had negative experiences with vacation home renters. After all, one-quarter of the transiency occupancy tax dollars are culled from vacation home renters.
To enforce the ordinance the city will have to hire someone at the rate of about $40,000 a year to handle the gripes. The fines would be between $250-$1,000. They would not be levied until after there have been five warnings. There will also be an appeal process. Renters and owners could be fined — not the property managers.
Right now there is no method for tracking the number of complaints filed so it is not mathematically possible to prove that the new hire could recoup the cost of his salary.
For a city that is in financial trouble and is going to balance its books on the backs of visitors with a spike in the TOT, we must question whether we are hurting or helping ourselves with more regulations. And is hiring another person, who with benefits, would clearly cost taxpayers more than $40,000 the best answer?
The ordinance will allow vacation homeowners/property management companies to be issued a permit. This establishes a tracking system that is not currently in place. Then there will be enforcement — by the newly created city enforcer.
People need to remember that we can create all the laws we want, but it does not mean people will change their behavior.
We like the idea that the ordinance, if passed, would be reviewed after one year to see if it is working.
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