Advertisements for short-term rentals in Breckenridge could soon be required to display a town-issued business license.
Under a proposal passed unanimously Tuesday night on first reading, the Breckenridge Town Council opted to make anyone renting out a residence for less than 30 days at a time include their business license number in all their advertisements, be it in a newspaper or magazine, on brochures or signage, via email or telephone, broadcast or online on websites such as airbnb.com and vrbo.com. Town ordinances must pass on two readings before they become law.
Based on the proposal, the only ads to which the new rule wouldn't apply would be ones not posted by the renter, or that were picked up and duplicated without the renter's knowledge or direction, which frequently happens online.
There are currently no restrictions on advertisements for long-term rentals in Breckenridge, and the proposal pertains exclusively to the short-term lodging industry.
In the proposal, anyone found to be in violation of the advertising requirement would first be notified by the town. After receiving notice, owners would be given 15 days to come into compliance before they could be fined anywhere from $200 to $1,000 a day until they comply, though no one close to the plan expects to see any major fines levied as a result of the ordinance.
Rather, the move is designed to "level the playing field" and help town officials collect sales taxes more efficiently, according to a memo forwarded to the council from Breckenridge revenue services administrator Heather Pezzella in support of the resolution.
Adding to that, Breckenridge director of finance and information technology Brian Waldes said that requiring ads to feature business license numbers will help the town enforce the law on renters who aren't collecting the town's 3.4 percent tax on short-term lodging accommodations.
"The concern is always that there are people out there who aren't complying with the licensing requirements and then not necessarily remitting taxes at the same time," he said. "When we say, 'level playing field,' we're talking about the duty we owe to what we think are the 98-99 percent who are complying."
Waldes explained that he believes it's a very small percentage of owners who aren't collecting sales taxes from renters, and he referenced a similar effort to uncover scofflaws five years ago that turned up only 17 violations out of more than 3,000 short-term rental accommodations.
The following years there were even fewer violations discovered, he said, until they ultimately ceased the process because they were finding so few.
However, monies collected from the town's business licensing requirements, including those on short-term rentals, are an important piece of the town's budget. Some of that money goes into marketing efforts, which in turn help promote the town, Waldes said.
"That's part of the reason you are able to rent your homes for the rates you can rent it for here in Breck, and why it's so easy to rent your home here in Breck, because the town is vibrant, it does get marketed," he said. "Also, your sales tax dollars go to plow the streets, plant flowers in summer and all those things that make Breck a functioning town. So it's really fair that everybody be kicking in — not their own money — but by collecting and remitting the sales tax."
Waldes said the biggest concerns are getting word out to all possible short-term rental owners and large property management companies that can maintain hundreds, if not a thousand or more, properties.
According to Pezella's memo, the proposal came on the recommendation of two data-discovery companies, and it is modeled after similar measures in Vail, Avon, Telluride and Mountain Village.
The proposal drew the most discussion of any item before the council Tuesday night, but passed without dissent. Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron did not attend the meeting.