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Are Las Vegas' Short-Term Rental Laws Working?

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Associated Press

If you want to operate a short-term rental in the City of Las Vegas, you have to have a special-use permit.

That law was put in place last year to try to curb party houses.

The rule made many homeowners happy, but it upset rental operators who say it punished people who already follow the rules.

Last week, the city fined a vacation rental owner $70,000 for not having a permit and racking up several code violations. Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said city officials visited the house more than 22 times.  

So, overall is the permitting process working? It really depends on who you ask. 

Tarkanian told KNPR's State of Nevada that it is working but there are looking at tweaking the process.

"You can't do something this complicated without having to tweak it," she said. Tarkanian said the city is trying to balance all the needs and create a win-win situation for everyone.

One of the problems the city is trying to address is the permanence of the special-use permit. Currently, it stays with the property, which means if someone is a good operator but they sell the property to a bad operator, that SUP stays with the property.

However, if you ask people who rent out their properties, the ordinances are not working.

Julie Davies is a spokesperson for Vegas Vacation Rental Association. She said the regulations create big problems for rental owners. She said it's a gamble to apply for a business license and a special-user permit when they're not sure if they'll be approved by the city.

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Davies teaches a class about short-term rentals at the College of Southern Nevada to help educate homeowners about the laws and what they can and cannot do.

While people with short-term rentals are not happy about the regulations, people living in neighborhoods where there are rentals are not sure they go far enough.

Dayvid Figler is the president of the John S. Park neighborhood. John S. Park is a historic area near downtown Las Vegas.

He said the city needs to do to crack down on bad actors in the industry is to make rental websites like Airbnb and VRBO require a license number to be posted on the rental listing.

In San Francisco, homeowners must put their license number on their listing to make sure people know they are licensed to rent the property.

"If you can't advertise, you're not going to get the business and it's going to drive illegal operators out," he said.

Figler also said there are bigger issues at play beyond just licensing and special-use permits. His biggest complaint is that these homes are businesses set up in residential areas. 

On top of that, Figler argues that short-term rentals are taking up the valuable real estate that could be put on the long-term rental market.

Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin is also unhappy about the impact short-term rentals are having on neighborhoods.

"There is a fortune to made in these things," he said. "I cannot allow someone to make a fortune for themselves at the expense of the person that lives on the street right next to them. It just doesn't make any sense."

Davies admitted that when Airbnb and other websites first launched, making it much easier to find and rent a home for a weekend or a few days, there was an explosion of short-term rentals that did cause a disruption in neighborhoods because homeowners didn't realize they couldn't rent without following city and county rules.

Now, however, good operators are working with the city to create ordinances that encourage best practices, she says.

Guests

Bob Coffin, Las Vegas city councilman, Ward 3; Steve Seroka, Las Vegas city councilman, Ward 5; Julie Davies, spokesperson, Vegas Vacation Rentals; Dayvid Figler, president, John S. Park neighborhood

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