What Does Denver’s New Short-Term-Rental Regulation Mean For Airbnb?

Following in the footsteps of New York, San Francisco and Santa Monica, Denver is the latest city to impose fines on short-term-rental platforms like Airbnb for listing unlicensed properties. Airbnb, meanwhile, appears to be doing its part to minimize non-compliant short-term rentals in the Mile High City. It is also taking steps to prevent noise complaints and “party house” situations as the summer holidays heat up. So what does this mean for short-term vacation rental owners and property managers? And how will it impact the upcoming Fourth-of-July weekend?

  1. The city of Denver’s new measure is designed to compel short-term-listing platforms to be responsible for verifying property licenses.
  2. The new legislation seems to be doing what it was intended to do: purging unlicensed listings, encouraging proper licensing and generally improving the Denver short-term-rental market.
  3. Airbnb and other listing platforms are taking steps to prevent Fourth-of-July parties at short-term vacation rentals in Denver.

1. The city of Denver’s new measure is designed to compel short-term-listing platforms to be responsible for verifying property licenses.

In late November 2020, the Denver city council voted to fine online short-term-rental platforms up to $1,000 per transaction “if they help unauthorized people rent out their homes to vacationers and other short-term occupants.” The council says it took this action to prompt rental platforms such as Airbnb to cooperate with its licensing regulations by prohibiting unlicensed rentals from marketing through the platform. The new legislation, which came in part as a result of complaints about excessive guest noise and rowdy gatherings associated with short-term rentals, was scheduled to go into effect in 2021. 

Then, in February 2021, following several months of negotiation, city officials rejected a proposal by Airbnb on how to remove unlicensed or otherwise illegal listings from the site. For its part, Airbnb says the move to cease negotiations and move forward with the new legislation, and its associated $1,000 fine, came as a surprise.

2. The new legislation seems to be doing what it was intended to do: purging unlicensed listings, encouraging proper licensing and generally improving the Denver short-term-rental market.

Denver first started requiring licenses for short-term-rental operation in 2016. Since then, the city has worked to ensure that all short-term rentals and vacation rentals are in compliance, and operating under license guidelines. Colorado’s most populous city currently has just under 1,960 licensed short-term rentals. But, city officials have said, if rental marketplace platforms don’t require proof of a current license, it’s inevitable that some owners will rent out their properties on those platforms without the proper license. Without a license, a property is not subject to licensing requirements governing safety measures, trash abatement, noise mitigation, or sufficient parking spaces, or the fines levied by the city for violating those requirements. And since Airbnb controls over 90% of Denver’s short-term-rental market, getting the platform, and others like it, to cooperate with the licensing requirement is paramount to ensuring owner compliance. 

Enacting legislation that compels listing sites to show proof of license for listed rentals (and levying fines on listing sites rather than individual owners) appears to cover the most compliance-enforcement ground in one place at one time.

The good news: Since the new legislation went into effect there have been no violations cited, which means both listing platforms and owners seem to be on board with improving short-term rentals for guests, neighbors and communities.

3. Airbnb and other listing platforms are taking steps to prevent Fourth-of-July parties at short-term vacation rentals in Denver.

In response to community concerns, legislative measures, and a general recognition that “large gatherings remain a potential public health issue,” Airbnb is enforcing its “party ban” in Denver, as travelers make their Fourth-of-July-weekend plans.  

Guests without a history of positive reviews will not be allowed to book one-night stays in Denver over the holiday weekend. Airbnb notes that these types of bookings most often correlate with parties and noise complaints. The rental platform is also imposing additional “defenses” on two- and three-night stays, including verifying that the booking guest is 25 or older, and placing restrictions on whole-house rentals within a certain radius. 
Get more information on Airbnb’s “Summer of Responsible Travel,” and find out how you can prevent noise issues and neighbor noise complaints at your Denver short-term vacation rental on Independence Day weekend…and every weekend!