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Ogden residents vote to regulate short-term rentals

Updated January 30, 2019 - 11:20 pm

The Ogden high-rise in downtown Las Vegas, a case in point in the fight against illegal vacation rentals, has almost entirely relied on the city for policing for a decade. But now for the first time, enforcement is possible in-house.

A supermajority of residents at the condominium tower voted to allow the homeowners association to regulate illegitimate short-term rentals, targeting a point of contention that had never been addressed by policy since the building opened in 2008.

By a 189-29 vote as of Tuesday, the residents agreed to a revision to The Ogden’s bylaws that creates background checks for long-term lessees, boosts funding for expanded security and institutes a fine system for units found to be operating in the home-sharing space without the proper licensing from the city.

But the new rules also force residents who oppose home-sharing, believing it transforms residencies into questionably vetted hotels, to reconcile fresh safety measures with a provision that potentially expands the number of legal rentals — depending on a looming decision from City Hall.

“We’re just really desperate for enforcement,” said resident Kerry Gerst, who voted for the amendment and is against short-term rentals. “This was the only mechanism for us to get them to do that.”

Yet resident Bruce Marler, who said there has “been a lot of noise” from the anti-group, took the value of the amendment he said he was involved in crafting a step further.

He described the change as a residents-driven solution that answers an integral question: “How do you manage in a way that allows you to have a community but still enjoy the benefits of something like Airbnb?”

For a location that has become a central battleground to the industry — pitting safety concerns against economic considerations amid the growing popularity of platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway — the condo has been left seemingly vulnerable without regulations.

While only one unit in The Ogden has a city-issued special use permit to operate legally, Las Vegas code enforcement as late as December had about 25 open cases in the building, a figure that still represents a significant dip from the past.

Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock’s rental of rooms there the weekend before his rampage highlighted and exacerbated concerns.

It’s the only non-hotel condo in the city that hadn’t rejected or even addressed short-term rentals beyond indirect rules over maximum occupancy, according to Uri Vaknin, president of The Ogden Unit Owners Association and a partner with KRE Capital LLC, the group that bought The Ogden in 2013.

Vaknin said he believed the absence of rules on the books might have been the product of the preceding owner’s marketing strategy to appeal to investors, but Nevada law dictates that an HOA can only govern and police what is laid out in the covenants, conditions and restrictions.

“The most important thing about this amendment is that it gives us control to govern the STRs in the building,” he said, adding that wide support should be viewed as a testament to resident buy-in to the compromise plan.

The new rules are 18 months in the making, with voting beginning in November, and intended to rally support from not only the most fervent, perhaps fractional, groups on both sides of the vacation rental debate, but those from the bulk of the 230-something occupied units whom Vaknin described as typically nonvoters.

An email was sent to residents Tuesday notifying them that more than the necessary two-thirds majority had OK’d the change.

“It’s a good step,” agreed resident Jonas Woolverton, a member of The Ogden Is Home, a group that lobbies to rid illegal vacation rentals from the building and get more owner-residents.

Like Gerst and others, he has expressed reservations about accountability in vacation rentals. But he said he believed the homeowners association would use newfound powers to seek to boost enforcement, although he tethered expectations to a timeline.

“I’m going to give the board a year to enforce and really weed out the bad actors,” Woolverton said. “I don’t know if it’s possible to have a perfect situation. There’s always going to be a problem with short-term rentals.”

Votes will continue to be collected through Thursday. Within the next week, the amendment will be recorded and a copy mailed to every resident. After 30 days from the mailing, the amendment will go into effect.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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