Placer approves new rules for vacation rentals

Published Nov. 21, 2019

New regulations for vacation rentals in eastern Placer County will take effect in January with the county Board of Supervisors voting on Tuesday to approve a short-term rental ordinance.

The ordinance is intended to strike a balance of reducing neighborhood nuisances like noise and parking issues related to vacation rentals without undermining the market for this important guest accommodation. 

Among its key provisions, the ordinance establishes a new permitting requirement to operate a residence as a vacation rental property. The new permits would not be required for more traditional lodging types like hotels or timeshares, or homes within resorts that are managed through a resort management company. 

The new regulations define quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and include a requirement to provide bear bins for garbage. 

They also set occupancy limits after 10 p.m. of two adults per bedroom, plus two additional people, excluding children under 16. Occupancy limits were revised from a first draft of the ordinance to allow greater flexibility to accommodate families with children. The revision allows the Community Development Resource Agency director to increase occupancy limits on a case-by-case basis to ensure that large families are not left out of the rental market. 

Fire safety is also addressed in the ordinance. Outdoor wood-burning fires and charcoal grills would be prohibited at vacation rentals to reduce the risk of fire. The application for a permit requires a safety inspection by the local fire district once every three years to verify installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher, and that barbeques and outdoor fireplaces are in compliance with fire code.

Property owners will be required to designate a local point of contact who can quickly respond in person to any complaints about their guests. And either guests or the property owner could be fined for citations. Penalties could escalate with repeat violations, and more than three citations in a year could result in a vacation rental permit being revoked.

With an overwhelming majority of vacation rental properties located in the North Lake Tahoe region - 3,638 out of 3,778 of the total countywide - the ordinance applies only to properties above 5,000 feet in elevation. 

Vacation rentals in western Placer County will not require a short-term rental permit but will still be required to obtain a transient occupancy tax certificate and comply with the TOT ordinance. 

Vacation rental owners within a residential association may request an exemption from the short-term rental ordinance and must demonstrate that the association requirements cover noise, parking and trash and that fire requirements are met. Single-family homes in resort areas not managed by the resort are also eligible for an exemption if they meet those requirements.

The board also approved fee amounts for the permits - $200.18 for professionally managed properties and $337.13 for privately managed properties. The fees are intended to cover the estimated annual cost to administer the short-term rental program of $455,620, as well as the cost of fire inspections by local fire departments. Fees for rentals managed professionally are lower because those properties have historically presented fewer code compliance issues and better response to complaints.  

The permits must be renewed annually by March 31. 

Vacation rentals have long been a part of eastern Placer County’s tourism-based economy, and lodging taxes paid by guests are an important source of funding for local infrastructure projects and services. 

With the rise of online vacation rental booking services like Homeaway and Airbnb, an increasing number of homeowners are offering their properties part-time as lodging. 

“Staff and our partners and the fire districts have moved expeditiously to address this situation,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “I really appreciate the time and dedication it has taken to move this forward so quickly.”

County staff brought a first draft of the ordinance to the board for consideration Oct. 22. The board approved the introduction of a revised draft of the ordinance Nov. 5. With today’s adoption of the ordinance, it will become effective Jan. 1, 2020.