South Lake Tahoe ramps up VHR permit enforcement

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Lake Tahoe is entering its fourth month of Measure T being in effect and the city has had to step up enforcement of vacation home rentals.

It’s hard to give exact numbers on how many permits are expiring because of Measure T any given month. Many homes are just being sold because the market is so hot, some people are just not renewing their permit and while the city asks permit holders to tell them if homes are sold, not all of them do.

“As of January we had 1,402 permits,” said Maureen Stuhlman, VHR investigator with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. “Approximately 400 of them are in the tourist core.”

Stuhlman said 60 permits from the residential zone were closed by the permit center in January and 42 permits were closed in February. Those numbers do not account for homes that were sold or permits that were closed before the expiration dates.

Stuhlman said the majority of expirations will happen in May and June.

However, there are a few bad apples that have been caught still operating their VHR without a permit. In February and March there were about 20 citations given and only one was for something other than operating without a permit.

Stuhlman said three have been appealed and six are waiting for the appeal hearing. In order to appeal, the citation must be paid.

“Note that in accordance with the ordinance, citations can be issued for ads still being posted for short term rentals,” Stuhlman said. “In some cases, the ad had been an oversight as the property was under contract for sale or had a long term lease (greater than 30 days) already.”

The city introduced a shared home rental permit for people who want to rent out a room or accessory dwelling unit but because of COVID, that type of rental is not allowed by the state.

“Combine that with the implementation of the closures of VHR permits in the residential areas as they expire, it has a huge impact on staff and resources,” Stuhlman said. “It requires additional follow up and enforcement of newly unpermitted rentals and ads.”

In some cases, the secondary booking platforms haven’t removed the ads or homes are being rented for more than 30 days (which is allowed) but neighbors don’t realize it and call to report the home.

The staff time isn’t just spent on enforcement.

“The permit center makes contact with the expiring permit holders three times prior to the manual closing of each of those permits the day after expiration at midnight,” Stuhlman said. “Databases on the city website as well as for a monitoring provider are then individually updated as well.”

The VHR permitting and renewal income is used to cover the cost of enforcement but Stuhlman said, “of course renewed permits have substantially diminished this year while the enforcement costs remain.”

SLTPD is in the process of hiring more code enforcement officers.

“There has been some online discussion that there should be easy replacement of lost TOT revenue by citation income,” Stuhlman said. “Issuing a citation is the easy part, due process and collections can be a lengthy and costly process.”

The glimmer of hope is that, in theory, this increase in time spent enforcing should only last through the year since once the year is over, all permits in residential areas will have expired.

“It must be said, that like any regulation, the majority of the thousands of ads and 1,000-plus rentals are in compliance,” Stuhlman said. “It is the unknowing or unwilling minority who require enforcement.”

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