TOT appeal denied by Town Council

mltc4_2_14In certain zones in the Town of Mammoth Lakes, overnight rentals are legal, but owners must pay Transient Occupancy Tax. In the case of one property owner, the Town Finance Staff said he had repeatedly rented his property on a nightly basis and failed to pay taxes owed. Wednesday night, John Hopp appealed the determination of taxes, penalties and interest.

The whole amount added up to $54,281, according to Finance Manager Cyndi Myrold. She laid out the string of events that started with a warning letter in 2012 and continued with a series of citations and warnings and sporadic lack of response from Mr. Hopp.

John Hopp

John Hopp

Myrold said Mr. Hopp continued nightly rentals as revealed in sting emails by the Town inquiring about rental rates. The Council gave Hopp a chance to offer his defense. He said that in the past residents had opposed the tax. Mr. Hopp said, “In essence, I’m saying the tax is illegal. I’m not a Transient Occupancy Tax facility. It’s ambiguous,” he said. “So the benefit of the doubt goes to me.”

Councilman Matthew Lehman said the Town Attorney investigated every angle and determined the Towns TOT assessment is legal. Lehman pointed to the evidence that Mr. Hopp’s property was listed as a nightly rental on websites. Hopp claimed others pirated his information, but he did admit he had been renting nightly.

Councilman John Eastman asked Mr. Hopp why he had failed to respond to a number of Town notices. Hopp said, “I’m very busy. I’ve been in Ecuador on business and have personal issues related to the mail.” Eastman asked how he explained the fact that he was renting nightly in a single family neighborhood. Hopp said he didn’t feel the law was applicable.

Councilman Lehman concluded that Hopp needed to be aware of the laws and that TOT is a large chunk of Town revenue. He said the evidence presented made it “pretty clear this was a case of illegal rental.” Councilman Eastman said he was not sympathetic to the property owner “based on the mounds of evidence.” Council woman Bacon said she agreed. The only three Councilmembers present voted to uphold the Town’s determination and to direct the Staff to require the property owner to pay the $54,281.

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28 Comments
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Cyndi
Cyndi
8 years ago

DosBozos – The link you provided is for a home that is in a legally zoned area. The property owner holds a valid business tax certificate and remits TOT to the Town.

DosBozos
DosBozos
8 years ago

I will just leave this here, $1000 a night aint too bad: http://www.homeaway.co.uk/reviews/p214297vb

Mk
Mk
8 years ago

The town performed a sting on Mr. Hopp. He was to rent only nightly at the sting. Then Mr. Hopp admitted to charging nightly.

but again this I feel and know that this should only be an administrative violation.

Curious?
Curious?
8 years ago

When was the last audit of any of the towns major TOT generators? How many locals have been charged with TOT violations? Could Mr. Hopp have written every rental contract for thirty days regardless of the actual number of nights to eliminate the TOT violations? Mammoth, the worst real estate… Read more »

Dream weaver
Dream weaver
8 years ago

I know so many people that rent illegally. But they have found ways to fool the town, and when I have reported them , all the town had to say was “unless we see money being exchanged there is nothing we can do”…

John Startz
John Startz
8 years ago

Town needs to wake up to the new millennium, this is 2014 not 1980 , you can not have a ordnance not allowing single family nightly rentals on one hand and ask for t.o.t. when you are renting illegal anyway, makes no sense. Time to change the ordinance and allow… Read more »

bailie Mann
bailie Mann
8 years ago

Okay, so why since 2012 did the compliance efforts really take 2 years and how much did the town pay over the last 2 years to come to this point. I mean seriously 2 years? How bad a crisis is this if staff takes 2 years to do the obvious?

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  bailie Mann

If the city shows up in court and cannot demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that it did all the steps required by law before it can prosecute the case, the court will throw the case out and tell the city to go back and do all the other steps first.… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago

Holy crap! A grand a night. Then you see the owner. The situation makes me think back to the lyrics of CCR’s old song “Fortunate Son” Some folks are born silver spoon in hand, Lord don’t they help themselves. But when the tax man comes to the door, Lord, the… Read more »

Mongo the IDIOT
Mongo the IDIOT
8 years ago

Why Mammoth at $1000 per night?
Why not PARIS at $200?
http://jetsettimes.com/2014/02/20/10-crazy-cool-affordable-hotels-in-paris-under-200night/

Best to stay out of the tax dodge limelight Mr Hopp, possible next stop IRS via Ecuador Terminal LAX.

Thank you for being an example of behavior to avoid.

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago

DT, so you’re a fashionista! Maybe these lyrics from The Kinks describe you? “Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is). He thinks he is a flower to be looked at, And when he pulls his frilly nylon panties right up tight,… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

If you ever saw me you would know I am the opposite of fashionable. I don’t have time for fashions or fads.

sugar magnolia
sugar magnolia
8 years ago

lots of confusing stuff here. if this is an ‘illegal rental’ as Lehman claims, then what taxes are they collecting? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If the rental action is illegal, then there are no taxes to collect. Instead there should be a civil complaint regarding… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  sugar magnolia

Did prosecuting Al Capone for tax evasion suddenly make murder, racketeering, extortion, gambling, prostitution, etc., legal? No. Think through what you are writing more carefully. The guy made money renting a home. It was illegal, so on top of the likely civil penalties for what he did, he also owes… Read more »

MK
MK
8 years ago

Magnolia you have it right. Tortoise you have the TOT wrong. At some point this whole thing will play it out in court. See If you read the TOT tax code you will see. Here goes as written. “Transient occupancy facility” means any place, space or structure, or portion of… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  MK

Your argument is ridiculous on it’s face. What you are saying is that someone cannot be prosecuted for operating an illegal facility because the facility, being illegal, was not in conformance with the law and therefore the law does not apply to a non conforming business. I want to see… Read more »

MK
MK
8 years ago

Boy it’s pretty sad when you folks cannot read and comprehend what I wrote. I never said he was guilty of an illegal operation. I think he admitted to that. That he is culpable of an administrative issue only. What I said is It is my opinion as well as… Read more »

KS
KS
8 years ago
Reply to  MK

@MK – Please note the TOML Municipal Code section 3.12.075 Failure to register (specifically part B). If he had applied for a TOT certificate, as is legally required, it would have been declined due to the zoning of his residence. However, the failure to obtain a TOT certificate made him… Read more »

mk
mk
8 years ago
Reply to  KS

You are forgetting that there is no failure to register because his operation by town municipal code definition does not need to. The only guilt that should be is zone code violation.

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  KS

Thank you KS. Sugarmagnolia and Mk are both full of prunes.

MK
MK
8 years ago
Reply to  KS

@KS, By any chance did you happen to read the Definition of an ” operator ” is in the TOML muni Code? Well you need to have a Transient Occupancy Facility in order to be an Operator! look I did not write the law. However the Town has always refused… Read more »

MK
MK
8 years ago
Reply to  KS

Below is the wording of the county of Mono TOT law. “Transient occupancy facility” (or “hotel”) means any form of lodging facility the occupancy of which may be legally subjected to a tax under Section 7280 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code, or any successor state law, as the… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago

Not so fast Mr. Obrien. How many years has he been renting his place at $200 or so a night? Or was it more than that? He blew off a warning letter way back in 2012. He has revenues in the neighborhood of $250K or more for that period. He… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago

At the Council meeting, the Finance Manager said as a result of sting emails, the Town learned Mr. Hopp was charging $1,000 per night. The stated violation time was from 2009. BK

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago

DT, where the heck do you get your figures or know anything about his overall wealth or obligations? Either you’re just pulling your information out of your ear, or you know enough that you should be investigated. For someone who rants about the accuracy of other posts, you sure are… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

Not hard at all. From the article one knows the violations went back to at least 2012. I guesses at $200 a night, as that is the price range I have rented in. Figure two years of renting out at $200 a night. It is simple arithmetic. Now we discover… Read more »

Rick O'Brien
Rick O'Brien
8 years ago

FIFTY-FOUR GRAND ??? I doubt he made that much in rental fees. So what’s next, the town put’s a lien on his property ? Not too many people can just cut a check for 54,000.00 and change…Did they figure out what the “what if ” figure would have been IF… Read more »

Rick O'Brien
Rick O'Brien
8 years ago
Reply to  Rick O'Brien

I had NO idea he made that kind of $$$…OOPS !