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Issues plague new Denver AirBnb registry

Posted at 6:18 PM, Dec 13, 2016

DENVER -- Only a fraction of the estimated number of AirBnB and short-term rentals hosts have registered for a licenses under a new city law that goes into effect at the beginning of the year.

While some may be hoping to host under the radar, others may have found out that the process is more complicated and expensive than they expected.

The city has only issued 277 short-term rental licenses as of Tuesday morning, but has estimated 2,500 to 3,000 hosts. Approximately 150 people had not finished the online application process.

"I've heard complaints that people are trying to get their license and unable to get through the system," said Jolon Clark, a Denver City Council member, during a committee meeting Tuesday. "I'm sitting over here on my computer.  I've got Chrome, Safari and Firefox all pulled up and all of them say, 'This browser you are using is not on the list of supported browsers or versions.' That's not great."

City staff said a new website planned for launch Friday would correct those issues and streamline the process.
 
"I think they are still having some technical issues," said Michael Socha, a Denver resident who has rented out his basement to AirBnB guests for the last three years.

He is a member of the city's short-term rental advisory committee, and he also had issues with the registration process.

"I kept getting booted out. I had to call 311 to get people to help me back into the system," said Socha. "And it takes a while.  If people are waiting until the last minute they are going to be in for a rude awakening.  It took me somewhere between one and two weeks to get the entire process done."

It was also more expensive than expected, with the city charging a fee for a lodgers tax ID and for the short-term rental license. 

Socha said he is also still trying to figure out how he will handle the 15 percent city and state tax he must charge his guests.

"We do have a business, so we should be taxed," said Socha. "I just would like it to be a more simplified process."

Denver officials stated that this is the first online business license for the city.

"There's going to be some hiccups," said Dan Rowland, a city of Denver spokesman. "As this continues to evolve, the process will get easier for people." 

Still, he said, the clock is ticking for people to get their STR licenses.  

Enforcement begins at the start of the year and includes fines that will escalate up to $999.

The city plans to hire a tech company to comb sites such as AirBnB and VRBO for data on hosts, and they have promoted a program coordinator to respond to complaints and track compliance.

Administrative citations can be sent in the mail, and don't require an in-person visit from a city inspector.

The city council approved new rules to regulate short term rentals in June, requiring the rentals be a primary residence and for the host to get a business license.

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