Boise City Council greenlights ordinance requiring short-term rental licenses

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If you operate a short-term rental in the City of Boise, you’re going to need to get a license. 

After years of debate over how to address short-term rentals in city limits as the housing market tightens, Boise City Council made the final vote on Tuesday night to approve an ordinance requiring certain safety measures at the vacation rentals and a license to operate in the city limits. Just like in a February work session discussing the proposal, City Council Member Luci Willits and City Council Member Patrick Bageant voted against it. 

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The reworked ordinance will require short-term rentals 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. 

This revised proposal has some differences from Mayor Lauren McLean’s original proposal. It 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 council reflects a split city 

The issue of short-term rentals has been divisive in Boise in recent years and this divide was evident in February’s vote on the ordinance. 

On one hand, those who voted for it like City Council Member Lisa Sanchez said it is an important tool to gather data about how many short-term rentals are operating in the city and how they might be impacting the affordable housing market, instead of just relying on how people think they feel about them to make decisions. 

“I have had a lot of constituents reach out to me,” Sanchez said in February. “They do believe short term rentals are a factor in very tight housing market for long term rentals and the reason that I would like to see us looking at the ordinance at the six-month mark is so we can gather that information and deal with facts versus feelings or impressions.”

The other viewpoint, held by Bageant, Willits and others, say this ordinance is government overreach on small business owners and won’t actually lessen the impacts of short-term rentals on the neighborhoods. 

“I do appreciate everything staff has done to soften this, but for me, I don’t think it will satisfy anyone,” Willits said last month. “I don’t think this goes far enough for the neighbors who don’t like short-term rentals and for the folks who are trying to run their business this feels like an extra step so I will be voting no.”

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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