Lodging Overlay

New town software monitors websites like AirBNB and VRBO to ID properties outside the lodging overlay (outlined in red) advertised for short-term rentals.

The Town Council moved forward Monday night with its plan to create an administrative process for prosecuting illegal short-term rentals, unanimously passing an ordinance at second reading.

“The short-term rental ordinance was originally drafted a couple years ago,” Lea Colasuonno, the assistant town attorney, told the council. “It’s a complicated area of law for our town, and we have determined over time that there were ways we could improve it and clarify it.”

Permits to legally operate residential short-term rentals are provided for units within the town’s lodging overlay and within the Snow King Mountain Resort District.

Residential short-term rental permits expire Dec. 31 each year and must be renewed annually. Permit holders are responsible for collecting and remitting all applicable taxes, including sales and lodging taxes.

At any time the town reserves the right to suspend, revoke or deny a permit “for good cause,” including making a false statement in the permit application, violating any ordinance relating to health and safety of the premises being rented or relating to zoning, or operating a rental property that does not fully comply with town building and safety codes or land-development regulations.

The major change to the municipal code is that illegal rentals will no longer be pursued in criminal court. Instead the town will take violators through a civil administrative process.

Because a civil administrative process does not carry a misdemeanor charge the burden of proof is slightly less onerous, requiring a preponderance of evidence rather than evidence proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

As such, “advertising that offers a property as a Residential Short-Term Rental shall constitute prima facie evidence of the operation of a Residential Short-Term Rental,” the updated municipal code reads. “The burden of proof shall be on the owner, operator or lessee of record to establish that the subject property is being used as a legal Residential Short-Term Rental or is not in operation.”

Per the ordinance, advertising includes, but is not limited to, newspaper, radio, print, digital or voice advertising. All ads must include a valid permit number, issued to that specific unit, and an effective internet link to the town of Jackson short-term-rental law.

Other permissible evidence may include guest testimony, rental agreements, advertisements and receipts or bank statements, if a warrant is obtained, showing payments to the owner by a guest.

Though the civil process does not carry a misdemeanor charge, it does carry a $750 fine per day for each day the property was illegally rented or advertised.

If found guilty of illegally renting short term, an owner would be ineligible to apply for a permit for five years, and the town would notify the appropriate county and state authorities of the short-term operation and its failure to comply with tax law.

Those found to be illegally renting short term can then be prosecuted criminally under three code sections, including fraud and misrepresentation, violation of permit provisions or allowed business operations.

Upon conviction the illegal renter will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

The third and final reading of the ordinances is scheduled for Monday in Town Hall.

Contact John Spina at 732-5911, town@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGtown.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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