Colorado Springs bans *some* STRs

9 Replies | Colorado Springs, Colorado

It finally happened. Colorado Springs passed a law banning some Airbnb/short-term rentals last week. So, what do you need to know?

What's banned?

  • all new non-owner occupied short term rentals in R-1 or PUD zoning
  • any new non-owner occupied STRs in R-2 and higher zoning that are within 500 feet of another non-owner occupied STR

What's still allowed?

  • all existing permitted STRs (non-owner occupied and primary residence homes), regardless of zoning, as long as you continue to renew the license ... in other words, everyone who's currently (and legally) operating an STR is grandfathered in.
  • all new non-owner occupied STRs in R-2 and higher zoning that are NOT within 500 feet of another 
  • all new primary STRs in any zoning

Confused? Feel free to reach out to me. I have a sick love of talking about STR and Airbnb laws. Here's some more info.

Definition of "owner occupied"?
You live there 210 days or more. How do they police that? Who knows.

When do the new regulations go into effect?
The council has to give final approval at their next meeting, Dec. 19, 2019. There is some confusion about whether it will be in effect upon that approval or if it will go into effect a few days later when it's officially recorded.

How does this impact my current or about-to-be Airbnb rental?
If you're permitted, you're good. If you have a rental but no permit, apply for the permit right now.

What about future STR investments in Colorado Springs?
Funny you should ask! You should probably work with someone who understands the laws inside and out. (Ahem.) If you are creative and know how to search, you can find homes for Airbnb. I already have a handful of current listings that I know would still work under the new laws.

@James Carlson - may I supplement?  I'm going to assume your permission since this is a forum and this is America and I'd do whatever I want anyway.

Each of the new ordinances contains a military clause meant, ostensibly, to protect active duty military STR owners (for the owner-occupied portions of the amendments). That is because, upon deployment or PCS, we (active duty military STR owners) cannot comply with the owner-occupier rule. The amendments, in both C. and D., contain the following language:

"Where an Owner Occupied short term rental unit is owned by an active duty military service member whose permanent duty station is within El Paso County, the Manager shall waive this requirement for the Owner for up to one (1) year if the service member receives orders to report to a temporary duty station outside of El Paso County."

Unfortunately, the message to service members who own an STR is that you have one year after PCS or Deployment to return to an owner-occupier status. Unless you're leaving the service or returning from a deployment, that is impossible. Basically, if the Army/Air Force tells you "I order you to move" (which happens every 3-4 years), you get to keep your STR for one more year but lose it forever after that.

Great addition, @Thadeous Larkin . (And bonus points for using "ostensibly" in a sentence.) I failed to mention that important provision. I would love to see the blowback if the City of Colorado Springs revoked the license of a deployed service member. But damn, if they haven't done some interesting (read: unpopular) things already with the STR laws.

I'm not even sure my interpretation is correct since it talks about "temporary duty."  I speculate as to what it means for "permanent duty."  The language doesn't quite make sense to me, so I'm emailing my City Councilfolk for clarification.  STAND BY, MORE TO FOLLOW.

temporary duty probably means any TDY or deployments and there is an expectation to return to COS. Permeant is if they PCS you and there is no expectation that you will return to COS in 1 yr.

"Asking for a friend!" That's what you say when asking about a funky rash the shape of New Jersey

A short term rental or STR is any rental less than 30 days. The city of Colorado Springs (or most any city like Denver or elsewhere) doesn't care what platform you use to obtain these less-than-30-day guests (Airbnb, VRBO, newspaper classified, coffee shop flyer); they care that you rent your house or room for less than 30 days.

Anything 30 days or more is the same as a year-long lease in the eyes of the city. It all falls under the same rules, which is to say it's totally legal, whether furnished or not. 

I was recently under contract on home in the Springs, and the 500 ft requirements bit me here. While 500 ft doesn't sound overly restrictive, I haven't found much luck finding an R2 property in the neighborhoods immediately around downtown that don't run up against this restriction. It is also challenging to self-service the due diligence here, as you need to reach out to the zoning dept. for every property to confirm if it is within 500 ft of an existing non-owner occupied STR.

Also important to note even if a home is currently a licensed STR, if that home transfers to a new owner, that owner will need to re-apply for a permit, and will be subject to all the new rules. This will essentially mean that some currently permitted homes will eventually leave the STR market when the owners sell, because new owners wouldn't be eligible for a permit under the new rules.

@Marc Allen

You are exactly right. We've got a map we developed with the current STR permitted homes in Colorado Springs and you'd be surprised how few areas fall outside of a 500-foot bubble. The city has to develop it's own searchable map at some point. The current situation is untenable with having to call for every single property.

And yes, even if you were buying a property currently being used as an Airbnb short term rental, it's likely within 500-feet of another existing one and once it sells, it falls under current rules and therefore is likely not allowed. 

The whiplash of Colorado Springs city council action on STRs is still hurting my neck. We're seeing the same issues with our clients. I wish you luck.