Inyo’s short-term rentals hit a bump in the road

By Deb Murphy

Tuesday’s review of Inyo County’s short-term rental policy is a prime example of good intentions going awry.

The issue that rose to the surface of associate planner Tom Schaniel’s review of numbers and problems focused on non-hosted Airbnbs with unresolved complaints due in large part because the property owner was nowhere in sight.

Inyo’s ordinances allow for a non-hosted—with an owner or manager not under the same roof—as long as it is accompanied by a permitted hosted Airbnb. There was no requirement the hosted property had to be on or adjacent to the non-hosted property. Oops.

The good intention goes back two years when the Board of Supervisors went through the exhausting process of coming up with ordinances that would allow residents to rent out all or part of their property for less than 30 days without unwanted consequences like raucous party houses or a depletion of long-term rentals.

The Supervisors were leaning toward a requirement the rental was owner-occupied or at least on the same lot as the owner’s primary residence. A gentleman from Independence explained he owned two houses on separate but adjacent lots. He wanted to turn one into a short-term rental. The Supervisors’ solution was a requirement the owner needed a hosted permit before a non-hosted permit could be issued.

Fast forward to last Tuesday’s Board meeting. Schaniel reported there are 29 hosted and 14 non-hosted Airbnb’s scattered about in the County. Of those 29 hosted permits, 13 were pulled for the sole purpose of obtaining a non-hosted permit. The one Airbnb that resulted in a review by the Board last month was one of those non-hosted properties in an area where 20 of the 21 residents within 300-feet objected to during the Planning Commission’s Conditional Use Permit process.

Following public comment and Board discussion on the hosted/non-hosted conundrum as well as the process of neighbor notification and complaints, Schaniel said he’d come back in May with an array of options to deal with both.

Aside from those glitches, the process is working, according to Supervisor Matt Kingsley. Supervisor Dan Totheroh didn’t want the County “to throw the baby out with the bath water” in an attempt to resolve current issues. Jeff Griffiths seemed to prefer taking the non-hosted option off the table going forward.

One potential problem was the basic lack of housing in the County—would Airbnb’s take long-term rentals off the market. Schaniel’s survey indicated five permitted Airbnbs were converted from long-term rentals. Kingsley pointed out those five could not be considered low-income or affordable housing.

Chair Rick Pucci wanted to see an improved notification process that would include contact information so neighbors could log complaints or resolve minor issues before they became major issues.

Supervisor Mark Tillemans took a broader view. “This doesn’t solve the issue of people with no place to live,” he said. “Rents are going up as the inventory shrinks. There are a lot of factors in our housing issues, but we need solutions.”

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13 Responses to Inyo’s short-term rentals hit a bump in the road

  1. Mike C May 27, 2019 at 6:02 pm #

    For years, we had a hard time renting our non hosted property long term in Lone Pine, even lowering the monthly rental cost below our mortgage payment in order to maintain our home. When Vacation Rentals came around a little over a year ago, we found many people came to visit the area from all over the world, some staying in local hotels, while others wanted a house so they would have enough room for their family to be in one place. We know VR’s brings tourism revenue into the area, employing local people in order to keep our place running and we are able to reinvest in our home which brings property values up. This also gives us the opportunity to come up on a monthly basis which we could not do with a long term rental. Companies like Airbnb and VRBO help us to verify the renters with state issued ID’s, phone numbers and personal ratings along with insurance for owners and renters alike. We deeply love our home in the Sierras and love to share it with travelers from all around the world. Inyo County maintains strict guidelines and we are very aware that our license could be revoked at any time. We share these guidelines with our guests, along with our personal house rules before they come. Additionally, our neighbors have a direct line of communication to us at all times and have access to our rental calendar. Without the current non hosted rental income, we wouldn’t be able to make the mortgage payments, property taxes, etc. There have been months without any income generated prior to the vacation rental process and we hope not to return to those days. We hope all owners who own a VR respect the surroundings of their neighbors and the environment.
    We pay our quarterly taxes to the county and the state and hope this can be worked out for all of us.

  2. Magaman April 23, 2019 at 7:41 am #

    You are correct comrade – the beginnings of government control over private property in the U.S. coincided with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.

  3. Magaman April 19, 2019 at 4:54 am #

    You ignore my objection – government control of private property (the hallmark of socialism/communism) – entirely.

    Re-read my post, think a little harder, and try again.

    • Charles O. Jones April 19, 2019 at 6:47 pm #

      I ignore it because zoning laws and other government oversights regarding private properties have been in place in for well over 100 years in the USA, much longer than you’ve been around. But you’re certainly still free to object to it.

    • Philip Anaya April 23, 2019 at 4:01 pm #

      The hallmark of socialism/communism in regards to housing is that the Government might take away your house and then fill it up with good party members. You might be able to keep one room but for sure you are going to be sharing the bath with all your new friends and neighbors.

      • David Dennison April 24, 2019 at 3:14 pm #

        ..Phil,do you really think that’s ever going to happen ?….I’m more worried about the lying and scare-tactic reality show regime we have working (taking up space)in the white house right now,making our Country look like a bunch of weak worshiping fools to the rest of the World..

        • Philip Anaya April 25, 2019 at 9:22 am #

          Mr Dennison, The English Parliament Quartering Act of 1765 was as close as we will ever come to the human abuses suffered by too many in the communist systems in Russia and China in the last 100+ years. With the rights and the blessings of owning a home comes with responsibilities, most importantly respecting the rights of your neighbors . Have to agree with Ms. Mags and Mr. Jones . Non-hosted short term rentals may not work for a neighbor in a residential zoned neighborhood and without police, firemen, highways and other social institutions we take for granted, we could not have a functional society.

          • David Dennison April 26, 2019 at 7:37 pm #

            Phillip,I agree with your above post there….your post above that one you made,maybe I read it wrong…I read it like something you’d see or hear from trump and on fox news,scare tactics,the “caravans of aliens are coming,and the California Liberals are going to make us share our homes with them when they arrive….but only after the same-said Liberals take everyone’s guns away first “…

          • kwakkwakkwak April 27, 2019 at 4:15 am #

            how about the human abuses of the gov’t seizing the property of US citizens of Japanese descent and locking them up in concentration camps? Or the genocide against Native people living where Whitey wanted to move? Let’s see, there was that whole slavery thing, US colonialism abroad, the massive decimation of the environment by rapacious mining companies . . . and the English Parliament Quartering Act is the worst human abuse you can think of?

  4. Magaman April 17, 2019 at 5:50 am #

    America is – or was- a free country.

    Property owners should be able to do whatever they want with their property, without the government and a bunch of uptight neighbors telling them what to do.

    Beware the Socialist!!!

    • Charles O. Jones April 17, 2019 at 9:20 am #

      I see you got the memo to use the new buzzword.

      But be careful, if you send your kids to public schools, if you ever call 911 for police, fire or paramedics, if you ever drive on public roads or highways, if you ever use municipal water or sewer systems, if you ever visit city, county, state or National Parks, (the list goes on and on) – then you too may be a SOCIALIST!!!

  5. sugarmags April 12, 2019 at 7:43 am #

    Mark Tillemans is absolutely correct. Letting property owners do short term of single family homes is going to have a huge impact on the cost of houses and the long term rental market. Yes, Inyo County won’t have as bad of impact as Mono County would from it, but still, it hurts the community. It’s is imperative to not allow ‘non-hosted’ short term rentals. Make it so it has to be on the same property, or adjacent property and don’t let it spread more than that!!! Keep the housing stock mostly available for residents!

  6. MonoPerson April 11, 2019 at 2:44 pm #

    Is this the government trying to tell you what you can and cannot do with your rental property? If the government is so concerned that there isn’t enough low income housing, why don’t you build it yourself and let the personal property owner rent how they want?

    Now, I’m not saying, that the owners shouldn’t go through the correct channels, and neighbors have every right to say “no”, if they don’t want a nightly rental next to them. But, I just don’t like the government coming in and saying, “No, you have to make your rental for affordable housing.” Which is exactly what that supervisor said?!


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