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The City Journals

Short term rental regulations: coming soon to Riverton City?

Jun 24, 2019 02:34PM ● By Mariden Williams

There’s a lot of anxiety about how to manage short-term home rental services, but there are only six such operations in Riverton City. (Mariden Williams/City Journals)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

With the increasing popularity of Airbnb and VRBO, many cities are in a tizzy as to how to handle short-term rentals and keep resident complaints about such ventures to a minimum. 

“It has been a subject of a lot of discussion, and some cities quite frankly just don't know how to even handle it,” said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. 

“Oftentimes, people feel concerned about not knowing or being familiar with who's coming and going from a rental home,” said Riverton City Attorney Ryan Carter. “That doesn't necessarily mean that they're particularly crime-ridden or anything like that. It doesn't mean that there's anything to be suspicious about with these kinds of uses. We've had some suggestions from people who have complained about them that we should be doing things like required criminal background checks on anybody that signs up for short-term stays in a home.”

That, Carter noted, would be unconstitutional. And while in theory there are many policies Riverton could enact to make short term rentals run a little more smoothly for everyone involved, from neighbors to renters, in practice, many such policies are very difficult to enforce.

"I think to a large extent where municipalities adopted an ordinance around short-term rentals, where they've been mostly successful is just to require operators to license [with the city] so they're at least on the radar,” Staggs said.

In order to obtain a license from the city, operators would have to agree to the city’s short term rental policies—and if they don’t comply, the city could then revoke that license.

Many people fear that short term rentals run amok could result in many homes being converted into flat-out hotels, with a string of short-term occupants but no real residents. Carter proposes that in order to qualify as a short term rental, the rented building must be the owner’s primary residence: which is to say, they must live in the dwelling a minimum of 274 nights a year. The home could then be rented out for a maximum of 91 nights in any given year, with a maximum of 29 consecutive nights of rental before the owner would need to return and live in the home for at least a day.

"So, could you take a vacation, allow somebody to occupy your property, and be out of town in that period of time? Yes,” Carter said. “Could you live away in another residence, call that your home and then go ahead and use this as a short term rental? No. Can you cohabitate with a short term rental tenant? Yes, you can.”

Another prominent issue that residents have with short term rentals is the possibility of unruly tenants, which becomes a problem for the city officials and police officers too, when neighboring residents call in with noise complaints. 

To solve that, city leaders could require the owner to provide a contact number to all renters and residents within 300 feet of the residence. 

“So, if there's a complaint or something like that, the neighborhood is encouraged to complain to the property owner first,” Carter said. “I think that helps stave off a lot of calls for service directed at law enforcement. A neighbor can call up a landlord and say, 'Hey, they're being too noisy. Can you talk to them about it?' And then [the landlord] can call in and straighten the whole situation out.” 

For now, all of these policies are very much up in the air—they would have to go through Riverton City’s planning commission, and then come back to the council for final approval, in order to actually be added to the city code. But there is also some amount of question as to how necessary all this is to the city at the moment. 

"I think that it is a tempest in a teapot in Riverton City for the time being,” Carter said. “We've done our own surveys of this type of use, and we have found a total of six short term rentals within the territorial limits of Riverton City.”

And from those six short term rentals, there have only been two complaints.