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Few seem satisfied with Clark County plan for short-term rentals

Updated June 23, 2022 - 11:22 am

A Nevada mandate to legalize short-term rentals in unincorporated Clark County took a significant step after commissioners laid the groundwork for how licensing, restrictions and enforcement will be implemented.

The move has not left many satisfied, including county lawmakers, who on Tuesday unanimously passed the ordinance.

“None of us up here wanted to be doing this,” Commissioner Justin Jones said at one point during the lengthy meeting. “But this is where we are.”

The county will issue licenses for no more than 1 percent of the “housing stock.” And even then, there will be restrictions as to where those licensed homes can be located —1,000 feet away from licensed homes and 2,500 feet from established resorts or those that have started construction.

Regulated short-term rentals already are allowed in Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas.

“Clark County commissioners today passed new rules that are stricter than what is required by state law and will take money out of the pockets of Nevada residents and the local tourism economy,” said John Choi, head of US West Public Policy with Airbnb, in an emailed statement.

For homeowners such as Ronaldo Diaz’s mother — who started renting rooms at her home through Airbnb after an injury left her unable to work — the restrictions could signify an economic death knell, he told commissioners during public comment.

And the lottery system in which the licenses will be distributed is going to push people out of the market, Diaz said. “As it stands, these regulations that you guys are trying to pass are gonna eliminate a lot of Airbnbs.”

The 2021 Nevada Legislature legalized the practice of using homes for commercial lodging, reversing Clark County’s current ban on July 1.

Jacqueline Flores, co-founder of the Greater Las Vegas Short Term Rental Association, told the Review-Journal on Wednesday that the organization, which represents about 1,200 members in Southern Nevada, about 700 of them in Clark County, was disappointed.

“It’s going to eliminate 80 percent of the people who are doing short-term renting right now,” she said. “Most of those people are regular folks just trying to make ends meet.”

She said the association has been in constant touch with commissioners, and that they are surprised the guidelines are even more strict than what was outlined by the Nevada law.

“We’re still hopeful that they will come to the table and try to fix this,” said Flores, adding that the association is exploring legal options against the county.

Lottery system

Before applying for a business license, homeowners first will have to sign up to enter a “random number generator,” which is essentially a random electronic lottery system that will be run by a third-party, lawmakers said.

Only fully-completed applications will be accepted, and homes must be compliant. That includes having written permission from their homeowner’s association if they live in a community regulated by one, the county said.

Mobile and manufactured homes, recreational vehicles, tents, and locations at Mt. Charleston, Moapa, Mesquite and Bunkerville will be ineligible.

The six-month selection process is expected to begin in September, after a month of county-led educational advertisements, and will close in March 2023.

Licensing and fees

Chosen homeowners will then pay a $45 inspection fee to apply to license their homes, which are limited to one per applicant.

Yearly licenses for homes with three or fewer bedrooms will cost $750. Those with more bedrooms will run $1,500. Both types of licenses also will have an annual fire inspection fee of $150.

Licenses will not be transferable outside a will or marriage, the county said.

Rentals will have a two-night minimum stay and only allow two guests per bedroom with no more than 10 guests allowed at any time.

Parties are forbidden.

The county will establish a 24/7 hot line where complaints can be reported. A representative for the homeowner must be reachable any time of the day, and will have 30 minutes to respond.

Inspection process

Jim Anderson, the county’s chief of code enforcement, outlined how it would work.

A code enforcement officer would visit the property, he said. At the same time, staffers will search the county’s database for the listing on the rental property.

If the rental is deemed illegal, the department will contact the online platform to have the listing removed. For other violations, a notice will be sent to the owner, and if the issue is not remedied, they will begin accruing fees, Anderson said.

The platforms will have five business days to remove the listing, but critical situations can accelerate the process, the county said.

Violators can face penalties from $500 for first offenses up to $10,000 in subsequent fines.

Tech platforms, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, will collect taxes, and send them to Clark County, officials said.

Additionally, the platforms will pay a yearly tax between $1,000 for 100 or fewer homes listed on their platform, and up to $75,000 for 7,000 or more homes.

The $10 average irked Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick.

“I’m sorry, fellas, but at what point do we truly regulate these, or do we let the lobbyists tell us what the hell to do,” she said, later walking back the lobbyist allegation when questioned by Jones.

“I have a lot of issue with this ordinance,” she added.

Commissioners estimate that there currently are more than 10,000 properties illegally being rented.

Anderson said the guidelines would help regulate illegal operators, describing it as a “massive first step.”

The regulations can be changed in the future to adapt to any wrinkles in the process, the commission said.

“It’s not promising,” Flores said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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