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Airbnb in Denver: Can you and your spouse have separate primary residences?

At the last two Short Term Rental Advisory Committee meetings, the city of Denver has addressed an interesting question: Can you and your spouse have separate "primary residences"?

Let's step back for one second. Denver's new Airbnb law, passed in June 2016 and in effect since January 2017, allows short-term rentals (STRs) only in your primary residence. (Learn more about the primary residence rule.) Within STRAC, there appear to be two factions:

  1. A group that wants to better enforce the primary residence rule and;

  2. A group that continues to push for numbers that show the actual efficacy of the primary residence rule.

Let's talk about group #1 first. The ordinance states you can have only one primary residence. If audited by the city excise and licenses department, you would -- per the ordinance -- have to prove primary residence by providing at least two documents from a list, including driver's license, voter registration, etc. What if you and your spouse have different addresses on each of your identifying documents?

At the STRAC meeting two months ago, Nathan Batchelder with Denver's excise and licenses department basically shrugged at that question. If each partner affirms under threat of perjury that they each have a different primary residence, then he seemed to say there's not much the city can do.

HOWEVER! At the latest meeting on Thursday, a subcommittee of STRAC revealed they are looking at other methods of verifying primary residence, such as scraping voter data and comparing it to your spouse's, looking at last-minute changes to voter registration addresses, etc.

Bottom line? If you and your spouse have in some way established separate "primary residences" in order to run an Airbnb full-time, you are likely OK ... for now. In the future, the city may very well develop more sophisticated methods of proving who's living where.

Now, about group #2. There are a few hosts on the STRAC meeting who continue to legislate the underlying verbiage of the law. Why, they ask, do we have the primary residence rule in the first place? One committee member is looking at affordable housing data, Airbnb data, and issues surrounding neighborhood complaints from other metropolitan areas to see if a primary residence rule is truly a good idea or just one that sounds like a good idea.

Oh, in other news from Thursday's meeting, 45% of STR owners have obtained an STR license. That's pretty damn good compared to other major cities that have passed similar laws. Also interesting to note, was that after the city sent out more than 1,000 notices of violation to Airbnb hosts last month, a whopping 700-something hosts just pulled their listing. That's more than 20% of what the city says are 3,000 STR listings in Denver.

What does that mean for you? Well ... if you can find a legal Airbnb, you might have less competition. If you're looking to move (or are just open to moving), I specialize in finding homes with basement or attic apartments, or a carriage houses out back, all of which you can legally rent full-time under the law and could possibly cover some or all of your mortgage. If interested, contact me today for more information.

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