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City of Boise to present revamped proposal to license short term rentals

Mayor Lauren McLean isn’t giving up on licensing short-term rentals. 

Next week, city staff will present a reworked ordinance to require a license for short-term rentals like Airbnb or Vrbo within city limits. This version of the ordinance would still require STR owners to provide the list of all the property owners and their addresses, name a local representative who lives within 20 miles of the unit and pay an $80 fee per year. 

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But, there are some differences. This revised proposal will no longer require the owner to provide a list of amenities, like swimming pools, or a detailed drawing of the property’s layout. The new version only requires the owner to describe the type and size of the property and whether it is owner-occupied or not. 

There were also some changes to the section about penalties for operating without a license. Instead of just listing that violators may be charged with a misdemeanor, this ordinance says the city could suspend or revoke a license from a short-term rental owner if there are problems. On top of that, a misdemeanor can be levied. 

The ordinance would also require STR owners to provide information on safety equipment, like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and guidance for where guests should park. Owners would also have to tell the city which websites the rental is advertised on, the corresponding listing numbers and the maximum occupancy. 

All STRs should follow quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., licenses must be displayed in the rental and trash cannot be stored in public view unless it is in city trash cans. Owners would also be required to only advertise their rentals on websites, like Airbnb and VRBO, already providing $1 million liability insurance or obtain an insurance policy for the property.

A split city

This revamp comes after years of division on the topic. 

In September 2019, former Mayor Dave Bieter proposed an ordinance regulating short-term rentals. His proposal included requiring owners to live on the property, a registration process for new short-term rentals and a limit on one short-term rental per property.

The proposal got a mixed reception, including strong opposition from Boise Regional Realtors that argued restrictions would be an infringement of private property rights. Bieter opted to form an advisory group to study the issue further and he announced prior to his loss in the mayoral runoff to now-Mayor Lauren McLean he would not pursue the changes after all.

One piece of McLean’s campaign was to implement “common-sense licensing practices” on short-term rentals. She originally pitched the idea in October, where it got a mixed reception. Her proposed ordinance came up for a public hearing in January, where it was met with a sharply divided crowd and a city council looking for changes. 

City Council Member Patrick Bageant was one of the ordinance’s sharpest critics during last month’s public hearing. After looking at the new draft, he is still questioning whether it’s necessary. 

“I’m still thinking about it and still reviewing it, but I am generally skeptical we need this ordinance at all,” he said. “It looks like it’s gotten less onerous and I appreciate that, but I’ll have some questions at the meeting and I’ll be digging into some of the same concerns I had last time.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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