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Ketchum tries to get short-term rentals in compliance with new ordinance

A view looking down on the city of Ketchum with yellow trees during fall and mountains in the background.
Rachel Cohen
Boise State Public Radio
Ketchum, Idaho

The city of Ketchum passed an ordinance in January requiring owners of short-term rentals to obtain a special permit in order to rent out their properties.

The applications went “live” in June, and a couple of months later, the city believes only about half of rentals operating have registered.

Several Idaho cities are trying to address an increasing number of short-term rentals amid affordable housing challenges, while complying with a 2017 state law prohibiting most regulations on the rentals like Airbnbs.

“This is the number one issue for all the Idaho resort cities,” said Jade Riley, Ketchum’s city administrator.

Long-term rentals accounted for about one-third of the housing stock in Ketchum in 1970, but in 2019, only 10% of the housing pool was rented out long-term.

Under pressure from residents, Ketchum landed on the new permits as a way to better understand how the rentals are affecting the city and certain neighborhoods. It also is using the permits to make sure the rentals comply with fire and safety standards and to ensure they’re remitting local option tax revenue.

Boise also passed an ordinance this spring requiring a special short-term rental permit, and McCall is considering similar changes to its program next week.

To date, 304 short-term rentals have registered in Ketchum — and paid the $527 application fee — roughly half of the 617 the city believes exist. A reminder notice is going out this week.

“If they are not registered by the end of September, then we will start to physically issue notices at each location and impose penalties,” Riley said.

Penalties could include a fine of up to $100 per day.

Five permit applications have been denied, Riley said. Denials can happen if fire and safety requirements aren’t met, if the rental is located in the city’s Light Industrial Zone, or if it’s in the Avalanche Zone and is listed in the winter months when they’re not allowed there.

The application fee, which could change next year, is to cover the cost of third-party data software and the staff time necessary to handle the rental applications and initial fire and safety inspections, the city said.

While some property owners have expressed displeasure with the fee amount, Riley said, he hadn’t heard of anyone saying the cost would prohibit them from continuing to rent out their units on a short-term basis. Most owners can recoup the fee, he said, by renting out the units for a couple of nights.

Riley said city council members want to see how the program is working in its first year before making future changes.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.