AirBnB Brouhaha

I just woke up from the most epic nap. I have been unusually tired despite going to bed a 8:30.

It’s the stress.

The day before I left for a vacation with my family and my Dad (HI DAD!) and step-mom, I got a scary letter from the City of Boulder.

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As you probably know, I rent out parts of my house on AirBnB and VRBO (I call them Short Term Rentals or STRs). I’ve been doing it for years and I’ve never hid it from anyone, including the city.

I spoke at a City Council session last year  (2:11:24) and asked them to legalize STRs which occupy a grey area as far as the city is concerned. Their policy has been to not enforce the 30-day minimum rental rule as long as no one complains.

Here’s a screen capture of the video and please, don’t ever let me wear those pants ever again.

Clearly I am advocating for a type of legalization that suits me but I invite people with different rental models to speak up during this critical period.

If you don’t live in your STR but have a compelling argument for being legal, please advocate for yourself, I can tell you who to talk to. You can start by going to www.stradvocacy.org.

I’m pretty sure none of my neighbors filed the complaint against me. They all know what I do and I trust they would speak to me before reporting me to the city.

I offer off-street parking and have a rental license, I carefully select my tenants to make sure no one is here to party and be disruptive, and my guests know I live downstairs and enforce strict 10pm – 8am quiet hours.

The cease and desist letter does not represent my financial ruin but would certainly cause some serious rearranging of the family finances. Others might not be so lucky.

In one day I was interviewed by the local paper and the Channel 7 News. In both cases I chose to remain anonymous because the letters were caused by one woman reporting as many STRs as she could identify by browsing AirBnB.

I didn’t want to go public until I had some assurances that this discussion would be fair and encompass all STRs, not just the ones easily recognizable by our photos.

I gave long and detailed interviews. Of course, this is all that made it to print.

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I’m a writer, can’t you tell?

“Super-alarming.” Yep, that’s me. Super-alarmed.

I guess that’s what I get for not going on record.

If you want to hear my voice and see my hands watch this video.

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Needless to say these last few weeks have been stressful as I strategize how to get the get the city to work with me on legalizing STRs in Boulder.

I’m not an aggressive person. I like to make friends and work with people, I don’t like it when people don’t agree or get along and I have never been a great advocate for myself so stepping into this role is a stretch.

Instead of blogging I’ve been organizing, writing letters to the city, reaching out to City Council members and right now I’m pulling together an association of STR operators. If you want to know more, please reply in the comments section or by using the contact me tab.

I started building a website but despite having built this one, I have completely forgotten how to set one up. Nina is on the job and one should be up and running by next week.

I asked Nina to help me after banging my head against the wall for an hour. The Tick is helping her help me.

I asked Nina to help me after banging my head against the wall for an hour. The Tick is helping her help me.

Last night I received news that the city was going to rescind the orders and study the issue on a city-wide basis.

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Yes!!!

This is a huge relief.

I will continue my work advocating for STR operators such as myself, who occupy the spaces they rent and are amenable to collecting hotel and accommodation taxes in exchange for legalization and protection from anonymous complaints. I feel that my work has just begun.

I want the city to know that we are not all absentee landlords dead-set on ruining neighborhoods for families and residents. I believe that most STR operators are and want to be good neighbors, but you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know where the complaint is coming from.

Furthermore, no anonymous person should have the power to jeopardize someone’s livelihood without transparent due process.

Yes, some STRs are owned by out-of-towners or investors, but that’s not us. Without regulation it’s the wild west and people will make hay while the sun is shining. It’s time for the city to step in and for thoughtful discussion.

Perhaps because of the temporary stay of execution, and maybe because of the Advil P.M. I took at the gym this morning (it’s all I had in my sparkly gym bag and was desperate) I got the kids off to school and couldn’t stay awake.

I fell asleep on the couch like I was roofied and just now woke up.

My phone has been ringing and the news van is headed over to interview me again (with my face) and I should probably eat something because that cup of coffee has my eyeballs jittering and I should probably comb my hair.

Wish me luck.

 

17 thoughts on “AirBnB Brouhaha

    • Thanks Kathy! It’s been a wild ride but I feel like City Council is friendly and amenable to working with me. At least I hope so. I hope they don’t read my blog!

      • Hey, and I just listened to your talk to the City Council and I thought it was great! You present yourself very well, and the pants were just fine! 🙂

  1. Viv,

    What a wonderful contribution you are making to your community! I can’t think of anyone more sensitive to a wide range of needs and more articulate in expressing them.

    You are a wonderful spokesperson for the VRBO/STR community and the community at large. I’m looking foreward to following this new thread.

    Love, D

  2. I had been wondering if you were one of the people that got reported. I am glad that temporarily the city has seen the light. Although I have a feeling that this wont be the last time they try to rain on peoples parades.

    • The city wasn’t behind the letters, they were responding to a complaint. This will be an ongoing conversation and I’m glad for it. I believe in integrity and a level playing field. What I don’t appreciate is cowardice and allowing others to shoulder all the burden and risk.

  3. Total bummer. I thought those letters were targeting only people who were renting out a place and were living off-site. I hope everything works out ok.

    • Thanks Michelle.

      I believe that all of the property owners were accused of being investment/absentee landlords, there were a lot of false accusations. I know that four or five of the properties were dismissed and at least three (although I’m guessing more) were falsely accused of not living on-site. One is a Whittier person who has lived in his home for 25 years and only started doing STRs in November, and one of his guests stayed for over a month.

      The truth is that the only allegation that has to be proven is that we rent rooms for less than 30 days to officially run afoul of the law. Fortunately it is now at the top of the list of things for city council to do and we can be treated equally, versus the current system of only going after people who get called in, for whatever reason. If they can establish who can do STRs where and under what conditions, it will make it easier to address issues like noise, traffic, occupancy, etc.

      STRs are a reality of travel, people have grown accustomed to them and will base their destination choices on whether a community offers a robust STR community. As I stated before city council, I think there is a way for STRs to co-exist with the city in a mutually beneficial way. There will have to be changes but I don’t think anyone will shed a tear over out-of-town investors clearing out so Boulderites can move back in.

  4. Well done, Viv. We’ve been using VRBO for a while, now, renting apartments in Paris and London rather than staying in hotels, and it’s really changed how we travel and has increased our enjoyment of our visits (two words: washer/dryer). In this economy, STRs can help a lot of people out.

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