License to rent? Officials look to better regulate Aurora ‘home stay’ rentals

The city already collects lodger’s tax from individuals who rent out their homes for 30 days or less on sites such as Airbnb, and requires those homeowners to obtain a business license, which costs $39.25 through the city of Aurora. But they say listing the measure online would help with enforcement efforts.

AURORA | After months of deferring the issue, Aurora City Council moved forward at an Oct. 24 study session with a measure that would require residents operating short-term rentals through sites such as Airbnb.com to list an Aurora business license number in their online advertisement.

“I support the elimination of all Airbnb-related legislation on the books that we have,” said Aurora Ward IV Councilman Charlie Richardson, the only city council member opposed to the measure.

Aurora’s Finance Department estimates there are about 170 Airbnb-style businesses in Aurora at any given time, and that 25 percent advertise their entire home for rent. City staff also estimate top-performing renters make between $15,000 and $48,000 in sales annually.

The city already collects lodger’s tax from individuals who rent out their homes for 30 days or less on sites such as Airbnb, and requires those homeowners to obtain a business license, which costs $39.25 through the city of Aurora. But they say listing the measure online would help with enforcement efforts.

Trevor Vaughn, manager of the city’s tax and licensing division, said the measure puts the short-term rental home owners under the same requirements other home businesses must follow. He said Aurora could make between $6,000 and $30,000 per year if Aurora could require these businesses to pay the city’s 8-percent lodger’s tax.

Gary Wheat, president of the city’s marketing organization, called Visit Aurora, agreed at the meeting and said the measure would make it a more level playing field for area hotels as well. Wheat also said he would like to incorporate residents’ short-term rental listings into Visit Aurora’s marketing campaign.

“We’ve had another wonderful year. We’ve had points where we’ve needed all the rooms we can get,” Wheat said. “Because we haven’t had that relationship with an Airbnb, we haven’t been able to engage these homeowners, which helps their business.”

Wheat said he would like to start including homeowners’ Airbnb rentals on Visit Aurora’s online booking page, so individuals are aware of all of their travel options within the city.

A requirement Vaughn said officials removed from the city’s short-term rental code based on city council input was one that would have required homeowners renting their home via Airbnb or another site to occupy 75 percent or more of a home, a move which would have effectively banned any whole-home rentals.

A recent search on Airbnb showed there were more than 300 rentals listed in Aurora, with the price per night averaging $93. That average increased to $147 per night when travelers search to rent an entire home in Aurora on the site. According to October listings in Aurora from Airbnb, the most expensive rentals are located in the eastern part of the city near Buckley Air Force Base and south going toward newer neighborhoods around the Southlands shopping center. One three-bedroom home with vintage 1970s decor near South Buckley Road and East Hampden Avenue was being rented out for $325 per night, according to the site. 

The short-term rental site HomeAway lists 418 rentals in “Aurora, Colorado” but a large number of those properties are actually located in nearby municipalities such as Centennial or Denver. The site VRBO lists 72 short-term rental properties in Aurora, and lists a “beautiful, two-bedroom luxury loft in the heart of Aurora” located near Buckley Air Force Base at $168 per night.

Cities across Colorado are regulating short-term rentals such as Airbnb as a way to maintain the character of neighborhoods, provide a framework for neighbors to complain about noise and address the lack of affordable housing.

In June, the Denver City Council passed a measure to allow owners to rent out a primary residence for less than 30 days, according to The Denver Post. Denver so far does not allow short-term rentals in second homes and investment properties, mostly because some Denver city officials and housing advocates say they are worried about the lack of affordable residences available in Denver.   

Neither does Aurora, according to city officials. Heather Lamboy, a planning supervisor in the city’s Planning and Development Services Department, said Aurora’s zoning code could be amended in the future to allow for short-term rentals of second homes if interest in the idea grows.

Aurora’s measure still needs approval from city council members at a regular meeting. Vaughn said if the measure is approved, the city would create a frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) website to inform residents of the measure and send notifications to area Homeowners Associations.

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