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The City Journals

Murray targets short-term rentals

Jul 20, 2021 10:26AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Single-family homes make up 65% of all STRs in Murray, and of those, 68% rent out the entire home. The median nightly rental rate for Murray STRs hovers around $80.

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

An ordinance regulating short-term rentals in Murray City moves forward after the city conducted a survey of residents last December regarding the matter. Growing complaints from neighbors regarding noise, parking, and trash motivated the city to investigate houses rented less than a standard rental lease.

By definition, a short-term rental is any dwelling or portion thereof available for lodging of guests paying a fee for less than 30 consecutive days.

While Murray does not suffer from tourists in the way Park City, Moab, or St. George do, the city's central location on the Wasatch Front does make it appealing to business travelers. 

"The issue came to Murray a year and a half ago, due to a code enforcement issue when short-term rentals were illegal for single-family dwellings in Murray. As a result, conversations began, and research started; they found that a total of 126 unique rental listings—located in Murray— were posted on various short-term rental websites in January of 2021. They felt many citizens know that short-term rentals are illegal in Murray, but they proceed anyway, or residents do not understand the existing ordinance against it," explained Murray City Community and Economic Development Director Melinda Greenwood, at the April 20 Murray City Council meeting.

Rental property owner Charmaine Barrett told the council, "I had no idea that this might be against the city ordinances since it is my property, I own it, and as long as I am responsible and don't cause my neighbors problems, I should be able to allow whomever I want to stay in my home. So, I started renting on Airbnb."

Greenwood presented research showing that 65% of all STRs in Murray are single-family homes; of those, 68% of owners rent out the entire home versus 30% who rent out parts of it. The median nightly rental rate for Murray STRs hovers around $80.

Widespread support to regulate STRs manifested itself in the survey results, with 41% saying that STRs should not be allowed. If allowed, half said the rental unit should be owner-occupied, and 53% indicated the city should limit the maximum number of nights per year a dwelling may be rented.

Taxable revenue between long-term rentals and STRs creates a complex problem. 

Rental owner Bryan Muriel told the council, "With short term rentals, the city makes more in tax revenue compared to those landlords who rent long-term and, even worse, rent without disclosing some or all earnings, cutting Murray out of a tax portion. That is difficult to do with short-term rental sites, as they are in compliance with the law to report and collect tax on their end."

While rental owner Ken Atkins welcomed the idea of an ordinance, he stated, "I am a supporter of any ordinance which allows for the short-term rental of owner-occupied dwellings. The rental of these spaces, in a responsible and regulated manner, would be a significant advantage for those who are currently struggling to pay their mortgages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People in our community need every advantage possible to sustain us during this time."

At the June 15 Committee of the Whole meeting, Greenwood presented the first draft of the STR ordinance. While allowing STRs to be legal within the city, the ordinance would require STRs to be owner occupied. 

Additionally, the city would require the property owner to apply for a land use permit and pay a fee before renting. Also, they would need to submit a parking plan, "A detailed drawing of an off-street parking plan must be provided to ensure that all occupants of the primary dwelling and STR can be accommodated on-site at all times."

The city will limit STRs to a maximum of 30 days and require signage on the building. Violations of the ordinance can carry, at minimum, a $500 fine and up to a class B misdemeanor with no less than a $1,000 fine.