VALLEY COUNTY, IDAHO, Idaho — More people looking for places to stay on a weekend getaway are finding short-term rentals online through businesses like Airbnb.
A near tragedy on Monday puts that issue in the spotlight in Valley County. County officials are working on new regulations for short-term rentals.
One of the things the ordinance will address is carbon monoxide detectors. This comes after a family of 25 was exposed to the deadly gas on Monday. Twenty-one of them are okay, but four had to be transported to Boise for specialized care.
Valley County Commissioner Sherry Maupin said the county has been working on the ordinance for the past six months. The primary focus of the ordinance is health and safety.
"People come to our area expecting a healthy environment for their vacation,” Maupin said. “If they [property owners] can't guarantee that they need to upgrade their facilities to make sure they can.”
The ordinance would aim to protect people like Vladimir Vinnichuk, a member of the family that was exposed to carbon monoxide.
“Everything is, thanks to God, everything is, everyone is alive and all good,” Vinnichuk said on Monday.
The new ordinance would regulate vacation rentals found on sites like Airbnb or Vrbo.
“We need to make sure as people come and visit us, they have a positive experience,” Maupin said. “If we can't guarantee health and safety that becomes an issue for the entire region.”
The ordinance would do many things. One of them is limit just how many people are staying in a single home. The number of occupants inside the home cannot exceed the limits of the septic system. This has become a concern of Idaho Central District Health.
“Central District Health approves a home for residential use, and now all of a sudden like this one has 25 different people in it and that impacts the septic systems,” Maupin said.
On Monday, Donnelly’s fire chief told KTVB it isn’t uncommon for them to find a vacation rental with 15-20 people staying in it at one time.
The proposed ordinance would set a cap of 12 people, or four people per bedroom. If a property owner has a home that is larger than three bedrooms, they’ll have to apply for a conditional use permit in order to rent it out.
Another part of the ordinance is getting fire department approval. The appropriate department or district will come in and check to see the home has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
“I believe certainly the first year, the fire department is going to have to go out and look at it to make sure they are meeting our requirements,” Maupin said.
The ordinance is aiming to get the homeowners more engaged with the property.
“We're asking owners to personally engage, making sure their buildings are up to code and that they're meeting basically health and safety needs for those they're renting to,” Maupin said.
There are several other regulations this ordinance would require. It also covers parking, consideration of neighbors, and use of the home.
If enacted, it would require those interested in renting out their home to submit an application to the Valley County Planning and Zoning administrator with the appropriate fee. A fee has not yet been decided.
The application packet would require,
- Completed application form
- Site plan showing structures, parking, lighting, fire pits, etc.
- Operation plan
- Central District Health approval on maximum capacity
- Letter from fire department stating the rental is following fire codes
- Rules that will be posted on site
- Garbage pick-up agreement
- Declaration if the rental will be part-time or full-time
A public hearing on the ordinance is coming up on Feb. 18. This is where the public gets to weigh in and let the commissioners know what they think about the proposed changes.
If the commissioners adopt the ordinance next month, property owners will until Jan. 2, 2021 to apply for the permit to use their home as a vacation rental. Maupin told KTVB they wanted to give homeowners plenty of time to make sure they’re in compliance with the new ordinance.
“Health and safety is what the board of county commissioners focuses on first and foremost,” Maupin said. “The health and safety of our residents and visitors that come to see us, so short term rentals are becoming a big deal up here.”