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Airbnb under scrutiny in Colorado: But is it fair?

Posted at 6:24 PM, Sep 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-18 20:40:02-04

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DENVER — To Airbnb or not to Airbnb, that is the question in Colorado.

“It pays my mortgage. It pays utilities. It's great,” Mick Barnhard told Denver7’s Tom Mustin.

Barnhard has rented out his Five Points carriage home for three years. His home has been voted the best Airbnb rental in Denver. He charges up to $144 a night. 

The added income has changed his life.

“It’s simplified my life and given me a vision toward retirement,’ said Barnhart.

But when you shine a 360 spotlight on the issue, you'll see the service has sparked heated debate in Colorado from cries of investors buying up property and decreasing the state's already limited housing inventory, to complaints from hotels, to allegations of noise and transient neighbors.

The noise issue hits home with Cap Hill resident Hannah Palker.

"Frustration definitely and anger as well, “said Palker

Summit County has requested the state to explore changing the category of Airbnb rentals from residential to commercial. It's a move that would change the tax rate for rental properties from roughly 7 percent to a whopping 29 percent.

Denver City Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman says Denver has generally been receptive to the Airbnb movement, despite some complaints.

“It usually happens when they rent it out to a very large group of people," she said. “The guests become noisy and disturbing to the peace.”

Susman says more than half of the city's roughly 3,000 Airbnb renters depend on the income and operate legally, meaning their rental property is their place of residence. All complaints of illegal activity are investigated.

Denver received $3 million in Airbnb "lodgers' taxes from January to July. That money goes to the general fund.

Susman is concerned a larger tax would put most Airbnbers out of business or cause them to operate illegally.

“It would reduce the interest of people getting a license because of the enormous extra cost," she said. 

Bernhard sympathizes with neighbors who have had complaints, but he believes the Airbnb system itself makes abuses rare.

"It’s a self-check system where the guests have to do well to participate in Airbnb and for hosts to accept them," Bernhard said. "I have to be on my best behavior and provide the best product so that my guests will rate me highly, too." 

The Airbnb tax proposal is still in the early stages, but Bernhard says if it happens he'll have to grin and bear it.
“Of course I don't want to pay more taxes, but I can understand it. I think I'd still be making more money than I rented it long term,” he said. 

Airbnb released the following statement regarding property taxes:

"The majority of Colorado Airbnb hosts are sharing the homes in which they live, and many do so in order to help make ends meet. This proposed change could mean much this important supplemental income would go to state coffers, rather than helping a host pay their bills."