Folks across Colorado Springs are complaining that properties in their neighborhoods are hotels masquerading as single-family homes.
I’ve heard the complaints from upscale areas like the Broadmoor and the Old North End to gated communities including Cedar Heights and Kissing Camels.
And the complaints echo from more modest neighborhoods, too, like the Westside and Mountain Shadows.
They all ask the same question: how can it be legal to convert a single-family home into a hotel?
Specifically they are talking about folks who rent their properties as vacation rental homes.
Turns out dozens of people have discovered they can make serious cash — upwards of $4,000 a week at peak weeks — by renting their houses to vacationers.
Experts estimate there are 60 to 80 vacation home rental properties in the Springs. Cruise the web sites created to put renters in homes and you might think the number is far higher.
Prices, according to a casual survey, seem to run in the $200 per day range.
Prices peak during Air Force Academy graduation week each spring and during popular summer months. In addition, owners can ask a premium when the Springs is host to big youth sports tournaments and festivals.
A city Vacation Home Rental Task Force was convened in the fall of 2009 but it produced nothing in terms of new rules to govern the practice as many other cities do.
Manitou Springs, for example, requires folks who want to rent their homes on a daily or weekly basis to vacationers to apply for a conditional use permit. It goes through the planning commission and City Council. If approved, they must get a business license and pay sales and lodging taxes. Leases of 30 days or longer are exempt.
The task force did discover that many homeowners are not registered with the city or paying sales taxes, as required.
And many appear to be in violation of a city code that prohibits more than five unrelated adults from living in the same home.
Dick Anderwald, the chief city planner, said he may reconvene the task force if enough complaints surface. His planner, Larry Larsen, is researching the issue and taking complaints at email@example.com.
The only formal complaint this summer came from Cedar Heights where the Community Association president Lani Henneman asked about city codes. She said neighbors are upset about a house owned by Joanne Pearring being used exclusively as a vacation rental property.
Henneman said Pearring advertises the house as “Manitou Villa” and it is available to groups of 18-20 for $400 to $500 a night or $2,000 to $3,300 a week.
She recently rented the house to a baseball team in town for a tournament, Henneman said.
Pearring hung up on me when I tried to ask her about her house and business. Here’s a look from www.GoogleEarth.com.
Henneman said neighbors have complained about loud, late parties at the house. It has been blamed for traffic problems at the security gate. Guests have been seen feeding wildlife. And throwing rocks at deer.
She said Pearring, who lives in nearby Crystal Park and owns several other vacational rental houses, has “destroyed the whole purpose of a gated community” by introducing streams of strangers.
But the homeowners association can’t do anything about it because covenants governing life in Cedar Heights never contamplated the issue.