Health order prohibits vacation rentals from operating


By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

The state health department has issued an order that prohibits vacation rentals from operating in Colorado, according to Archuleta County Attorney Todd Weaver.

At the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners’ work session on Tuesday, Weaver explained previous orders issued by the state were vague or unclear about vacation rentals.

He noted the most recent health order offers some clarity.

“So, what they’ve articulated and finally come out and said is, VRBOs, Airbnbs, private rentals offered for rental for 30 days or fewer are excluded from the definition of critical businesses. From the definition of critical businesses, if they are excluded from the definition of critical businesses, they should not be renting, period,” Weaver said.

Archuleta County Development Services Director Brad Callender told The SUN Wednesday that, to the best of his knowledge, the state’s public health order does not prohibit listing vacation rentals on sites like Airbnb and VRBO, but does currently prohibit them from being rented out.

Asked if vacation rentals were still being rented in Archuleta County, Callender replied in an email, “Perhaps, because we didn’t know the Safer at Home order prevents short term rentals. We are now sending them notification through LodgingRevs notifying them of the restriction.”

LodgingRevs is the software the county has purchased to help manage vacation rentals in the county.

Asked who has the burden of enforcing vacation rental violations, Callender wrote it’s the county’s “Planning & Code Enforcement.”

Callender later explained in a follow-up phone call that when it comes to the state’s pubic health order, “technically” San Juan Basin Public Health would be the entity that would issue citations. 

Penalties for continuing to rent out vacation rentals amid the governor’s Stay at Home Order can reach up to $1,000 per day, Weaver told the commissioners Tuesday.

Weaver noted the county could seek a variance from the state to allow vacation rentals to operate in the county.

Local resident Dan Park called in to the work session, which was being broadcast on Zoom.

Park explained that, even though he owns a vacation rental in the county, he is still in favor of following the state’s health order for the time being.

“According to not one, but more than one of the [property] management companies, people are coming in hard and fast as soon as they know this is relaxed,” Park said, adding, “We feel that it’s necessary to comply at this time … I urge you to consider complying as well and perhaps not look for a variance at this time.”

Commissioner Ron Maez said Park made “a strong, valid point,” but took into account local residents who are employed by property management companies.

“There’s a lot of people that work for a lot of these other property management people, even smaller ones … They’re gonna hit the unemployment list and that’s another weight that we’re gonna have to measure,” Maez said.

Asked how enforcement could manifest in the county, Weaver said, “Typically it’s cease-and-desist-type letters first and then after that if they continue to violate the governor’s order, you can pursue civil and criminal actions.”