Yucca Valley To Institute Permit Requirement & Fees On Short Term Rentals

In a move certain to drive a further wedge between Yucca Valley residents and absentee landowners there, the town government last month approved a resolution that now imposes on the owners of residences rented out as vacation homes a requirement that they apply for a $270 permit every two years and pay the same taxes imposed on hotels.
The fee, town officials said, is to defray the cost of the town hiring a private company to monitor the properties, enforce codes and deal with complaints relating to the properties emanating from neighbors.
Simultaneously, the city entered into a contract with San Francisco-based Host Compliance LLC to monitor vacation rentals.
It appears that Host Compliance LLC will carry out that assignment remotely from San Francisco, using computer software and Internet data to keep tabs on all known vacation rentals in the town, monitoring them for compliance with the town’s codes, and informing rental unit owners of any noted violations with a notice to bring the properties into compliance. Host Compliance will keep town management abreast of the circumstance through monthly reports in the cases where no violations are observed and every week in those situations where a violation has been noted.
Host Compliance has represented that it can accomplish all of this without detailing any staff to Yucca Valley. Rather, it will rely upon the residents and landowners to do the actual policing and reporting. To accomplish this, Host Compliance has set up a reporting system that accepts either phone calls or emails. Any Yucca Valley resident living near or next to a vacation rental property can phone in or electronically post a complaint, including a written description, photograph, sound or video recordings and any other documentation to establish that a rental unit owner or inhabitant is in violation of the city code.
The town has roughly 200 residences that are rented out to outsiders, usually so-called snow birds from areas of the country where winters are harsh and who come to Yucca Valley usually beginning in December or January and often remaining until March.
In those cases where no code violations or enforcement activity is taken at a particular property during the two-year permit period following the original $270 application, a permit renewal will run $170. If the town has taken enforcement action against a property owner, the renewal fee will again be $270.
In addition, the town will move forward with applying its routinely-imposed fines on any property owners whose property is deemed to be out of compliance with town codes. Typically, the town issues a no-fine warning and a 30-day abatement notice. In response to a lack of compliance, the town can opt to provide a 20-day extension or issue a citation, most usually in the form of an infraction notation, triggering a $100 or $150 fine, with graduations upon second or third offenses. In its panoply, however, is the ability to issue misdemeanor citations if the circumstance fits within that rubric.
The town has also made clear it will now impose on occupied rental units the same transient occupancy assessments, i.e., hotel taxes, levied upon motels. The town has given itself the administrative authority to simply demand from property owners information on the income derived from renting or leasing the properties for the period in question, short or long term.
According to a report to the town council dated October 31 from Shane Stueckle, the deputy town manager and Sharon Cisneros, the town’s finance manager, Host Compliance is to provide an “up-to-date list of [the Yucca Valley] jurisdiction’s active short term rental listings; high resolution screenshots of all active listings (captured weekly);
full address and contact information for all identifiable short term rentals in [the Yucca Valley] jurisdiction; all available listing and contact information for non-identifiable short term rentals in [the Yucca Valley] jurisdiction; compliance monitoring; ongoing monitoring of the short-term rentals operating in [the Town of Yucca Valley’s] jurisdiction for zoning and permit compliance coupled with systematic outreach to non-compliant short-term rental property owners (using Town of Yucca Valley’s form letters); ongoing monitoring of short term rentals for zoning and permit compliance; pro-active and systematic outreach to unpermitted and/or illegal short-term rental operators (using jurisdiction’s form letters); a monthly staff report on [the Yucca Valley] jurisdiction’s zoning and permit compliance; up-to-date list of short term rentals operating illegally or without the proper permits; full case history for non-compliant listings; rental activity monitoring and tax collection support; ongoing monitoring of [the Yucca Valley ] jurisdiction’s short-term rental properties for signs of rental activity and/or tax compliance; automatic monitoring of review activity across 15+ short term rental websites; weekly screenshots of reviews and calendars for each active listing; quarterly pro-active, systematic and data-informed outreach to short-term rental operators regarding their tax remittance obligations (using jurisdiction’s form letters); a quarterly staff report on jurisdiction’s short term rental tax compliance; an up-to-date list of short-term rental landlords suspected of under-reporting taxes; documentation of information that serves as the foundation for the suspicion of tax under-reporting; and custom reports and analysis to support tax audits and other short term rental related investigations.”
The report does not disclose how Host Compliance is able “capture weekly high resolution screenshots of all active listings” from its operating base in San Francisco. There was unresolved confusion about whether those “screenshots” were images of the homes in question or whether this referred to the listings on the short term rental websites.
The reference to “automatic monitoring of review activity across 15+ short term rental websites” appears to relate to Host Compliance’s digitized or direct human capability to extract from sites or online platforms that rental owners use to book renters, such as Airbnb, VRBO and tripping.com, what units have been offered for rent, what the rental rates are and whether the rental units are occupied or vacant. The report does not disclose how Host Compliance is able to extract that information.
The town intends to have the rental unit permitting and tax collection systems in place by today, December 1, in time for the current crop of snowbirds.

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