Olympia examines new regulation for short-term rentals


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Olympia City Council has approved new regulations for short-term rentals that will limit the number of properties owners can rent.

The new regulations were created in part to protect the city’s affordable housing supply and target two types of short-term rentals: vacation rentals, where an entire property is rented, and “homestay” rentals. , where the guest stays in the same property as the owner or another permanent resident.

The new rules will allow landlords to operate their rentals more like businesses and obtain the appropriate permits, licenses and insurance to operate in the city.

In 2019, the state legislature passed laws regulating short-term rentals. The ordinance the city voted on is similar to laws in 2019 that require homeowners to purchase liability insurance, register with the state, meet safety requirements, and pay sales taxes and accommodation.

Leonard Bauer, the city’s director of community planning and development, said the regulations were created after residents expressed concern over the loss of homes and rental units from the housing market. But Bauer said short-term rentals currently represent just 0.8% of housing units in Olympia.

Council member Dani Madrone said the regulations would prevent the decline in Olympia’s permanent housing supply. “There is a role for these types of units in our community and there isn’t enough of them right now to have a huge impact on housing availability, but with these changes we’re not going to get there. ”

Other cities and counties in the state have created their own regulations for short-term rentals. The town of Steilacoom in Pierce County recently voted to ban all short-term rentals and Chelan County banned them in all residential areas.

Bauer said the regulations were created with community concerns in mind.

Under the new regulations, if a landlord wants to offer a short-term vacation rental, they will need to obtain a permit from the city of Olympia which they will need to renew every two years. The permits would allow the city to follow the short-term rental economy in Olympia, Bauer said.

Although homestay rentals are exempt from licensing, people offering both types of rentals should obtain a business license, liability insurance, and pay state and local taxes.

The city of Olympia has been in the process of adopting rules for short-term rental for the past four years, and after several public hearings and reviews by the city’s Land Use and Environment Commission, the council municipal voted Tuesday to approve the new ordinance.

Regulations limit the number of short-term rentals an owner can have to two, unless the owner already operates more than two, in which case they must ensure they meet all other requirements with the properties. This does not extend to rentals with host families.

Mayor Pro tem Clark Gilman said there had been debate around the rules for the two units – other drafts of the rules limited ownership to four short-term rental units. Gilman said he sees short-term rentals as part of the gig economy, “and I think that two-unit scale is still appropriate in this world. Someone who owns more units than this is starting to become a bigger hotel business and I don’t think it fits those guidelines.

City council members wondered who to call if someone broke the city’s short-term rental rules. Council member Yen Huynh asked if people should call 911 to report a short-term rental noise complaint, for example. Bauer said the city will put an emergency contact number on the city’s website “so they can react and respond if there is an issue with customers in a short-term rental that affects neighborhoods. “.

The regulation will allow landlords to offer ADUs for vacation rental and will require them to build additional parking spaces if they rent more than two rooms.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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