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Denver Short Term Rental Advisory Committee | New Denver Airbnb Laws

With just two months to go until the Denver's new Airbnb law goes into effect, a small fraction of hosts have registered their short-term rental with the city, an official said on Tuesday.

Somewhere around "80 to 85" licenses have been issued, Nathan Batchelder, a staff member with the excise and licenses division, told the Denver Short Term Rental Advisory Committee.

The figure was just one of many pieces of news that came out at the committee hearing. Batchelder also reported that excise and licenses has sent about 200 compliance reminders to hosts. And he said the city will dedicate two of its five license inspectors to monitoring compliance with the short-term rental law. Those inspectors will report to a newly created position, the Short Term Rental Coordinator.

In June, Denver City Council passed a measure to formally legalize Airbnb-style short-term rentals (or STRs), but only in someone's primary residence. The vote prohibits anyone from renting out a second home or an investment property on Airbhb, VRBO or similar online platforms. The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

But the biggest question about the new law has always been: Will anyone comply? The city of Portland, Ore. passed a similar measure in January 2015. As of August of this year, 19 months after its passage, less than a quarter of hosts had obtained the necessary license. Other cities have faced similar resistance to Airbnb laws.

(UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio reports that for at least some hots, registering is "a non event.")

Batchelder told the committee on Tuesday that his office will rely on both passive complaints and active monitoring to enforce the new law. Hosts are required to place their license number somewhere in their listing, and Batchelder said inspectors will occasionally monitor the site for listings without a license number.

What wasn't said at the meeting was whether the two license inspectors dedicated to STRs will be solely dedicated to Airbnb. Batchelder also said the inspector personnel will be assigned to the STR division "in addition to other duties as assigned."

With Denver's booming economy, it's hard to fathom the excise and licenses division having tons of extra time to devote to monitoring Denver's Airbnb listings. Airbnb has made it difficult to accurately count the number of listings in a city. If you search on Airbnb for Denver homes, for instance, you'll see it has 17 pages, each with 18 listings for a total of 300 listings. That's likely misleading as just two years ago when I would search in Denver, there were more than 1,000 listings for Denver. That was before Airbnb was big in the Mile High City. My guess would be that Denver has thousands of listings but that Airbnb is only showing a few hundred at a time.

Maybe there will be a mass push to get licensed as the New Year's deadline approaches. That's certainly what the city is hoping for. "We're waiting for that 11th hour when a lot of people will register," Batchelder said.

Anyone out there wanting to buy inside Denver for an Airbnb rental might be wise to wait and see how enforcement goes. Another option is to buy a primary residence with house-hacking possibilities. Basement, attic or carriage house apartments are all considered legal under the new law.

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