Update: City comments on Cherry Creek homeowner’s lawsuit over short-term rental license denial

The Cherry Creek home in question, located at 464 Adams St. (Libby Flood)

Update (1:30 p.m. Aug. 14): After this article was published, Excise and Licenses spokesman Eric Escudero sent BusinessDen a copy of Contino’s order of denial, which lays out the department’s reasoning for denying her short-term license renewal application.

The document says that Contino submitted a driver’s license and utility bill as proof of primary residence, but both listed Breckenridge addresses. Her original application for the license also listed a Breckenridge mailing address.

A subsequent investigation found that Contino’s social media page states that she lives in Breckenridge, her voter registration lists a Breckenridge mailing address, and the Denver Property Assessor’s office has a mailing address for her in Breckenridge, the order of denial states.

Escudero said in an email Wednesday that Contino was sent a primary residence affidavit to sign on May 13, but did not sign it. He added that Contino “did not exercise the right to appeal within 10 business days of the license denial.”

The order of denial indicates that a written request to appeal would result in a hearing on the matter.

“This case is about as open and shut as it gets when it comes to definitively showing that the STR was not a primary residence,” Escudero said.

Original story (6:00 a.m. Aug. 14): As Denver continues to crack down on short-term rental operations, one Cherry Creek homeowner is fighting back.

Last week, Karyn Contino sued Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses over its decision not to renew the short-term rental license for Contino’s home at 464 Adams St. in Denver, on the grounds that it isn’t Contino’s primary residence.

“The Department’s finding … is factually incorrect, and an abuse of process,” said the lawsuit, filed Aug. 9 in Denver District Court.

Department spokesman Eric Escudero declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, saying the city had yet to be served. He said Denver never before has been sued in relation to a short-term rental license.

Karyn Contino (Slifer Smith & Frampton)

Contino is a real estate agent with Breckenridge firm Slifer Smith & Frampton, according to the company’s website. The lawsuit claims that Contino resides in Breckenridge from May to August “to escape the summer heat,” and lives at her Denver home for the remainder of the year.

Records show that Contino and her husband purchased the Cherry Creek home in May 2008 for $936,759.

Contino applied to renew her short-term rental license in March of this year, the lawsuit claims. On June 24, the department mailed a notice of denial on primary residence grounds to a P.O. box Contino maintains in Breckenridge.

Contino said in the lawsuit that she uses the Breckenridge P.O. box “to receive mail in a secure location” because mail has been stolen from the mailbox of her Cherry Creek home.

Contino said she resides in Cherry Creek for a majority of the year, generally from September through May. She said she is registered to vote in Denver, and that all of her “medical treatment, personal services, shopping and veterinary services occur in Denver.”

Denver has been cracking down on short-term rental regulations this year, particularly involving the city’s private residence ordinance. (BizDen file photo)

As BusinessDen has previously reported, city officials have been cracking down this year on regulations enacted in 2016 that allow individuals to rent only their “primary residence” through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO.

In March, the city revoked a short-term rental license for the first time, following an administrative trial that led the department to determine that the home in question, 410 N. Marion St., was not owner Garth Yettick’s primary residence.

Around the same time, the city began asking individuals suspected of violating the primary residence requirement to sign an affidavit stating the home is their primary residence.

This month, department spokesman Escudero said about 200 people had surrendered their license or withdrawn their license application rather than sign the affidavit. The city also has charged four individuals who chose to sign the affidavit with attempting to influence a public officer, which essentially means making a false statement on a legal document.

Contino said in the lawsuit that her denial letter states that she declined to sign an affidavit. But she said she never was asked and would be willing to do so.

Contino is asking the court to set aside the department’s denial and order the department to hold a hearing on whether the home is her primary residence.

Attorney Phillip M. Khalife of Boulder law firm Frascona, Joiner, Goodman and Greenstein is representing the plaintiff. Reached by phone Tuesday, he declined to comment.

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Jason Kruger
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Jason Kruger

I hope she is awarded punative damages. Escudero and the rest of the STR office seem to have dreams of fascist control over the residents of Denver, and his media comments are tone deaf toward the people who fund his little salary.