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New ordinance will help Las Vegas regulate short-term rentals

Local governments in Nevada now have a stronger tool to help crack down on unlicensed short-term rental operators.

The Las Vegas City Council will soon consider an ordinance that echoes a new state law requiring short-term rental hosting platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO to submit quarterly reports detailing the number of bookings, listings and operators in the city.

Short-term rental operators in the city are supposed to have a business license and pay operating fees and room tax. City Deputy Planning Director Mary McElhone estimated on Monday anywhere from 800 to 1,000 short-term rentals are operating unlicensed in the city and not paying any room tax. The new measure would give the city actual data, an upgrade from a “best guess,” McElhone said.

“This is going to give us a really good idea of how big the problem is, what we’re looking at. And also, in understanding that room-tax situation — how much room tax is being left on the table,” McElhone said.

The new measure also asks for the revenue collected from short-term rentals and the average length of time the homes are rented.

Data from the hosting platforms will let city staff compare their numbers with how many operators have gotten the required permits and licenses. The information will be general — it won’t identify individuals who are unlicensed. But it will let city officials know if more staff and attention need to be trained on the short-term rental issue, McElhone said.

The new city ordinance echoes language in a Nevada Legislature bill that passed this year and took effect July 1. That law requires that, when hosting platforms are issued a subpoena, they notify the host of the rental and turn over any subpoenaed documents within 21 days.

The Las Vegas City Council added more layers to the restrictions on short-term rentals in June, asking that operators obtain a special-use permit before they can legally operate, giving the city more oversight and letting neighbors weigh in before permits are issued.

City officials have been dealing with “party houses” in Strip-neighboring areas for years, but the short-term rental issue has begun to spread elsewhere in the city, Councilman Bob Coffin said.

“We don’t know the scope,” Coffin said. “My block is becoming a hotel suite, house by house.”

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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