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Extended Studies course helps hosts navigate short-term rental ordinance (opinion)


Submitted by Julie Davies

As I read the article “New Short-Term Rental Ordinance Leads to Dozens of Complaints, Fines Against Homeowners,” I appreciated the county’s code enforcement emphasis on illegally operating Short-Term Rentals (STR). But I was disheartened by the reported increased complaints and ongoing non-compliance.

Code enforcement needs to be fully implemented, STR hosts need quality instruction about how to host more responsibly, and STR ordinances need time to stabilize before communities negatively judge their efficacy.

Vacation homes have been operating for decades. In recent years, the Short-Term Rental industry has boomed due to societal changes influencing STR consumer demand along with a push by online technology and “sharing economy” advocates.

As educators, we’ve been studying ordinance components in communities across the nation and recognize critical factors that help neighborhoods that have been disrupted by STRs listed on online reservation sites like Airbnb or Vrbo. These ordinance components include:

  • Reasonable regulations addressing the distinctive needs of the area. Safety standards and STR management best practices are essential in all areas. Fees need to be affordable for STR applicants but substantial enough to cover permitting and code enforcement costs.
  • Zoning and Permit Categories satisfying current STR consumer demand. We’ve found this demand will be filled either by legal operators — or by illegal operators. By studying where guests are booking STR stays, that data can help officials better address permitting needs within their planning process.
  • Quality STR Education. Extended Studies at the University of Nevada Reno recognized the community need for STR education. It offers the Short-Term Rental Certification program May 10-11 at the Redfield Campus. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/UNR-STR

Regulations lack action verbs, the “how-to” explanations about code compliance and best practices, along with “why” rules and laws are essential and even beneficial for an STR business. Quality education helps owners and managers learn to host guests more responsibly. Too many hosts jump into renting a whole home or a room without thinking about the amount of work involved in STR and the potential liability. Additionally, STR is markedly different from long-term rental, causing problems for realtors, property managers and their clients.

It’s the quality of hosting that matters most. So, the STR Certification course teaches how to find and understand laws and regulations, accounting practices, design and amenities, reservation sources and contracts, house rules and pricing.

Topics also include how to manage staff, neighbor relations, guest communication and monitoring, what to do if guests misbehave, housekeeping, maintenance, multiple property investing and management, and other best practices that create safer, more neighborhood-friendly and profitable small businesses.

It’s two days of valuable instruction, and Extended Studies keeps the tuition costs less than $400.

Consistent and effective code enforcement is vital. Laws and ordinances fail if they aren’t effectively enforced. Property owners who earn an STR permit need to remain code compliant. They will be fined or lose their STR permit if they violate the regulations. The main target of code enforcement efforts needs to be illegal operators. And the community needs to give officials time to fully ramp up the code enforcement process.

Short-Term Rentals are becoming a positive part of many neighborhoods. Again, the quality of the STR hosting and management will affect positively this societal change. Wise STR governance is essential in this process. I commend Washoe County for its work on its STR permitting process.

Julie Davies is an Extended Studies instructor at the University of Nevada, Reno and teaches at other universities. She has hosted neighborhood-friendly and code-compliant Short-Term Rentals and hotel lodging properties for more than 35 years.

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