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4 Desert Cities With Strict New Short-Term Vacation Rental Rules

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These 4 Coachella Valley Desert Cities Have Some Of The Strictest New Short-Term Vacation Rental Restrictions In The Country

As fall/winter Southern California desert vacation season nears, and vacation rental demand soars, it’s time for a hard look at what’s happening with vacation rental regulations in the Coachella Valley. The city of Palm Springs, with its strong occupancy rate, and investor-friendly permit regulations, continues to be a vacation-rental hotspot. But scarce property inventory and intense competition has led many to operate short-term rentals in smaller neighboring desert cities. And along with vacation-rental growth in these communities has come increased neighbor opposition, and a spate of new city council votes, ordinances and permit restrictions. Here are the new restrictions for four Coachella Valley desert cities that have voted on ordinances in the first half of 2021. 

New La Quinta Vacation Rental Restrictions

Even with the COVID-10 pandemic in full force across the country, La Quinta saw a 267% increase in neighbor noise complaints between May and July of 2020. That steep rise led to a December 2020 city council vote to tighten La Quinta’s existing vacation rental ordinance

Changes to permit rules included requiring a local STR property contact to be available 24/7, and able to respond within 30 minutes of being called by STR code enforcement or the sheriff’s department. The city council also doubled noise-ordinance and other permit violation penalties. The new fines are set at $1,000 for a first violation, $2,000 for a second and $3,000 for a third. 

As of May, 2021, per La Quinta Ordinance 591, the city added these important new changes to short-term-rental permitting:

  • La Quinta city council imposed an indefinite stay on new short-term-rental permits unless the property is in a specially zoned area AND has HOA approval for operation of a short-term vacation rental.
  • Currently permitted short-term rentals may apply for renewal under the updated stipulations of La Quinta short-term-rental ordinance.

Looking for a La Quinta vacation rental investment? These 10 La Quinta “non-issuance exempt zones” are not affected by the new stay on short-term-rental permits.

La Quinta desert villa vacation rental fire pit

New Rancho Mirage Vacation Rental Rules

Similar to La Quinta, Coachella Valley golf paradise Rancho Mirage is moving toward a ban on short-term rentals in non-gated communities. The move comes in response to a massive increase in noise complaints, along with complaints about parking. A January 2021 city council vote skewed 5-0 in favor of a stay on new and renewed permits outside of gated HOA communities. Here’s what the new Rancho Mirage short-term-rental ban means for current and prospective vacation-rental owners and property managers:

  • New Rancho Mirage short-term-rental applications will only be considered for properties that belong to an HOA that does not prohibit short-term-rental activity.
  • Applicants must show a “complete and unredacted copy of the property restrictions (CC&Rs) recorded against the property for the purpose of determining if your HOA (Common Interest Development) allows short-term rental activity.” This may include a property title report. 

Along with the ban on new STR permits in non-restricted HOAs, Rancho Mirage is toughening up its existing STR rules. Among restrictions in this haven for poolside gatherings and al fresco festivities: No amplified sound may be used outdoors, or be audible from outside the property, at any time. 

New Regulations for Cathedral City and Palm Desert

Located between Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, popular retirement enclave Cathedral City has seen a boom in vacation rental demand over the past several years. The desert city has also experienced a major increase in neighbor complaints related to STRs in their neighborhoods. Over a 14-month period between October 2019 and November 2020, Cathedral City police reported more than 1,800 complaints and calls for service related to short-term vacation rentals, most of them about noise. 

The city has responded with a sharp curtailing of short-term rentals. The new Cathedral City short-term-rental measure, approved in March:

  • Phases out most Cathedral City short-term rentals by 2023, with exceptions for home sharing, or like in La Quinta and Rancho Mirage, properties located in HOAs that allow short-term rentals. 

In Palm Desert, famed as the Coachella Valley’s upscale-retail hub, the city council took up the short-term-rental issue in December 2020. In a 3-1 vote, Palm Desert approved a new ordinance that:

  • Terminates the rights of short-term-rental homeowners located outside of HOA communities that allow STRs, with a Jan.1, 2022, permit revocation date.
  • Sets a three-night minimum stay for permitted Palm Desert short-term rentals.

Even with new restrictions and regulations, owning and operating a short-term vacation rental in the Coachella Valley can be a lucrative enterprise with proper management and marketing. Find out more about protecting vacation-rental property and profits, and avoiding noise-related fines and damage, here.

Natasha Garber covers short-term-rental industry trends, news, regulations and compliance for NoiseAware. Her posts on STR property management technology, privacy-safe noise monitoring, and licensing laws can be found weekly on the NoiseAware blog.