ENCINITAS — After receiving local feedback over the course of two public hearings, the Encinitas City Council on Nov. 17 approved new regulations for short-term rentals in the city.
The updated regulations include significant increases to application and annual renewal fees for short-term rental owners and a minimum three-night stay requirement for rentals without a host at the property.
According to the city, the changes were implemented to curb nuisances reported by neighbors and commonly associated with short-term rental units. Opponents of the proposed changes pointed to just 23 filed complaints against short-term rentals over the past decade in Encinitas but the city said those official complaints do not capture the full scope of the problem citywide.
“I think from my perspective it’s really important to remember that in order to create a complaint, you have to be really aggravated,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “So I think there are a lot of consequences that people are tolerating. I think there is more of an impact than just the number of complaints.”
Short-term rentals are furnished apartments or homes rented on a short-term basis similar to hotels, normally as vacation rentals, and are commonly booked through online lodging markets, such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
Originally, the city proposed a minimum-night stay requirement for all short-term rentals in the city to cut down on loud parties or other disturbances but instead opted to allow rentals with on-site hosts, who would theoretically be able to handle such issues themselves, to operate without a minimum requirement.
But under the new guidelines, hosted rentals will now have a minimum stay requirement of three nights.
“I recognize that the number of operators that have short-term rentals that are causing problems is very limited, but in the end, I think it’s really important that we have better tools for addressing these nuisances,” Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz said. “It doesn’t even have to be rowdy, it can just be some cigar smoking friends out in the backyard that maybe have been drinking a bit whose voices are elevated can become a nuisance.”
The council also removed a prohibition on self-check-in for non-hosted units from the new regulations after receiving public feedback.
“I really support this kind of incremental approach,” Councilmember Joe Mosca said. “Let’s try some things and see if they work and come back to it.”
Still, some operators questioned why the council was making changes that could hurt short-term rental owners following the rules before addressing the rental owners with complaints against them.
“Don’t penalize the good guys,” said Kimberly Jackson, a resident and short-term rental operator. “All of us have paid our taxes, all of us have been law-abiding citizens, why are we being penalized? Let’s focus on enforcing the rules that are already in place.”
The cost of receiving and renewing a permit to operate a short-term rental unit will also increase to help alleviate the city’s costs. Since 2006, the cost for a permit was $150 annually and has remained unchanged until now. The new cost, which the city says will recover 80% of its costs, will be $425.
“The proposed fee I think is a reasonable amount. We’re not trying for 100% cost recovery,” Kranz said. “I recognize that it’s one or two nights of a renter that’s not going to be paid towards a fee and that, I think, is part of doing business and I don’t think it’s all that unreasonable.”