New Lake Tahoe vacation rental restrictions have been issued in two counties—Washoe County and Placer County. The new regulations relate to parking, fire inspections and noise. A third county, El Dorado County (home to popular winter ski and summer water-activities destination South Lake Tahoe), is implementing new restrictions on vacation-home rental permitting. Here’s what the new regulations mean for Lake Tahoe short-term-rental property owners, guests and neighbors, and what you need to do to avoid penalties and fines.
With its stunning setting on the shores of 191 square miles of pristine fresh water, Lake Tahoe is one of the country’s top destinations for adventure travel, outdoor activities and weekend getaways. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this in-demand vacation destination straddles the border between California and Nevada, enticing visitors with its ski resorts, snowboard parks, and world-class hiking and mountain-biking trails.
Over the past several years, the area has seen significant growth in short-term rentals. Washoe County alone, which includes the popular Incline Village and Crystal Bay areas, has more than 1,200 short-term rentals available to visitors for stays of less than 30 days. In Placer County, home of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Northstar California Resort ski areas, VRBO lists about 3,000 short-term rentals, ranging from cozy wood cabins to luxury chalets to contemporary condos.
While the growth in STRs has been a boon to Lake Tahoe visitors seeking more flexible accommodations than a traditional hotel or resort stay, residents have increasingly voiced complaints about parking, boisterous groups and noise. These concerns, combined with a need for more consistent tax collection, and fire safety in this heavily wooded region, have led to the new, stricter short-term-rental license and monitoring measures.
The small Sierra Nevada community of Incline Village in the northern part of Lake Tahoe has about 8,700 residents. But it is home to 90% of short-term rentals in Nevada’s Washoe County, which have been only moderately regulated until now.
Following two years of public outreach and planning, Washoe County representatives first presented new ordinances governing parking, “life safety” (aka fire safety) and noise, in February of this year. The new regulations were adopted in March 2021, and will be phased in over the spring and summer, allowing for any necessary changes or updates in advance of the winter 2021 ski season. The application period starts May 1, 2021; short-term-rental guidelines, tutorials and permit applications can be accessed here.
The major components of the new Washoe County regulations that apply to North Lake Tahoe vacation rental properties include:
Fines for rental ordinance violations are steep, with a first-violation penalty of $400, a second-violation penalty of $700, and a third-violation penalty of $1,000 and potential revocation of the STR permit.
Some of California’s best skiing and snowboarding can be found in the part of North Lake Tahoe located in Placer County. With 12 downhill resorts to choose from, along with miles of backcountry terrain, the region attracts snow-sports aficionados from all over the world.
There are approximately 3,800 STRs in the county, 3,600 of which are located above 5,000 feet elevation. These alpine accommodations are some of the area’s most desirable among visiting skiers and snowboarders. In recent years, area residents have expressed increasing concern about parties, parking and garbage associated with North Lake Tahoe vacation rental properties. At the same time, the county relies on revenue generated by these non-hotel travel accommodations. Now, like adjacent Washoe County in Nevada, California’s Placer County has tightened the reins on STRs, initiating stricter permitting, occupancy limits, trash mitigation and noise control. Placer County STR owners can apply for new short-term-rental permits and permit renewals here. Here are the main ordinance takeaways:
While Placer County permit fees are less than in neighboring Washoe County, compliance-violation penalties are higher. A first citation penalty will run STR owners up to $500 per day, while subsequent rental ordinance violations are set at up to $1,000 per day.
Sunny South Lake Tahoe is located in El Dorado County, and boasts most of the lake’s most expansive and accessible beaches, making it a prime summer vacation destination. With just over 725 permitted Lake Tahoe vacation homes currently in the region, the county is taking a fairly restrictive stance on growth. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors recently voted to limit the number of vacation-home rental (VHR) permits to 900 in the county’s unincorporated areas, citing resident concerns. The board also noted that in the event that more than 900 permit applications are submitted, a waiting list will be created. Additional new VHR ordinance measures include:
The penalty for a first violation offense is set at $500. If the owner is cited a second time within 18 months, that fine goes up to $750. A third violation in the 18-month window climbs to $1,000.
Own a short-term rental in the Lake Tahoe area? Make sure you’re compliant with all new rules and regulations, to avoid neighbor complaints and costly fines. You can also help protect your rental investment by vetting guests before accepting bookings, to avoid bad actors and out-of-control events. The best way to head off neighbor complaints before they happen? Equip your property with an unobtrusive, 100% privacy-safe noise detection device that measures decibel levels and notifies guests when their volume exceeds what’s allowed.