With around 171 Airbnb and Vrbo properties, Casper is considering new short-term rental regulations

CASPER, Wyo.—Casper City Attorney John Henley is asking the Casper City Council whether or not they want to consider amending the municipal code to create regulations specific to short-term rental properties.

Henley, in a memo to the board during its Tuesday, April 12 business session, said an internet search shows Casper has approximately 124 Airbnb properties and 47 Vrbo properties available for rent, and these online platforms led to an increase in the number of short-term rental properties. Henley also told council that the city does not require people operating short-term rentals to register that activity, so the exact number operating in Casper is unknown.

Henley’s research on the matter comes as he reviews Chapter 5.24 of the municipal code, which concerns hotels and rooming houses. He is preparing a draft ordinance for council consideration that would update “archaic and unconstitutional” language in the ordinance dating back to the 1920s. He noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld people’s right to privacy when renting a room in a hotel, and that the code needs to be updated to get rid of language that would lead to unconstitutional violations of people’s right to privacy if the rules were to be enforced. .

Here is an example of deprecated language in code:

5.24.090 – Immoral practices prohibited.

No person to whom a license is issued as provided herein chapter, tolerate or permit the hotel, rooming house or accommodation to which this license relates to be used as a house of disrepute, brothel, bawdy house or house of disorder, for the purposes of prostitution, fornication or obscenity; or undergo lascivious cohabitation, adultery, fornication or any other immoral practice.

Casper City Code

Regarding short-term rental properties, Henley told the council that the city sometimes receives questions from people wishing to operate such rentals, asking whether they need to take action with the city to do so. . Some communities require owners of short-term rentals to register those properties, have specific safety rules regarding things like smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and prevent short-term rentals from operating in certain parts of town. , Henley said. Casper, on the other hand, has no specific regulations regarding short-term rentals.

Deputy Mayor Steve Freel asked if the city collects a lodging tax on short-term rentals. Henley said Wyoming law requires any property rented to people for less than 30 days to remit lodging taxes to the state, though collecting those taxes is not something the city manages.

Airbnb collects and remits lodging and other applicable taxes in Wyoming, and Vrbo’s website says it does too, though Henley understands Vrbo doesn’t. Councilwoman Amber Pollock said it might be a good idea for Casper to change its ordinances to have short-term rentals registered with the city.

Pollock said a well-designed short-term rental policy could “have a huge impact” on the region’s tourism economy, although she added that if rental numbers are low and Casper has no encountered any problems, it might not be crucial for the board to adopt the changes immediately. She said that in the long term she thinks something needs to be done, even if it’s just to help make it clear to people who operate such rentals that they should pay the appropriate taxes.

One of the benefits of having short-term rental properties registered is that it would give the city something it could use to contact the state if the city suspects lodging taxes are not being collected as current law requires it, Pollock said.

Councilman Shawn Johnson said people are required by state law to remit applicable taxes, and while some may not know, ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’ . He added that his general philosophy on the regulations is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Freel said if the council forces people to register short-term rental properties, it may require new regulations that could “turn into a massive ordinance” and create a lot of work for city staff. He said if state law already covers the topic, he doesn’t necessarily see a need for the city to do anything.

Council member Kyle Gamroth agreed with Johnson’s philosophy of not changing regulations unless there is a problem to be solved, but noted that he also saw some wisdom in being proactive on the question. He said there are other communities in Wyoming struggling with issues surrounding the issue. Gamroth said he would rather wait and see how other communities, like Dubois, handle the issue before making drastic changes.

Following its discussion at Tuesday’s business session, council directed Henley to proceed with drafting the order to update archaic aspects of the hotels and rooming houses chapter of the municipal code . At this time, council has not indicated a willingness to add language to require short-term rentals to register with the city.

With regard to security issues, the council plans to explore the issue of landlord responsibilities in rental properties during an upcoming working session.

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