Summit County homeowners sue to stop new short-term rental restrictions


Keystone Lake on a warm, sunny day Oct. 28, 2022. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

A group of 89 property owners in Summit County say “blunderbuss” restrictions on short-term rentals violate their constitutional rights and threaten their livelihoods.

In a federal lawsuit Monday, the homeowners wrote that new regulations create “short-term rental haves and have-nots” and reveal the county’s “unfounded bias against STRs.”

“The right to own and rent property is a fundamental right under the United States and Colorado constitutions,” their lawsuit states. “…The county has violated that right.”

Dave Rossi, a county spokesman, declined to comment because the litigation is pending. 

County commissioners have known about the possibility of litigation since April, when they talked with County Attorney Jeff Huntley about it, Summit Daily reported then.

“We believe the claims that have been threatened are without merit,” Huntley told them. “We think that we would be able to successfully defend any litigation against the county.”

A state law passed in 2020 made it easier for local governments to restrict short-term rentals. Since then, Summit County has transitioned from STR permits to STR licenses, capped the number of licenses it issues to non-residents who rent out homes in residential areas, and capped the number of bookings all homeowners can accept at 35 per year.

Summit County Resort Homes Inc., a nonprofit group made up of 89 property owners in unincorporated Summit County, is suing with hopes of removing those caps.

The group said it is “irrational and discriminatory” for Summit County to cap the number of non-residents who can rent out their homes. It also takes issue with the county’s definition of residents as people who make the rental home their primary residence and also work at a job that requires them to live in the county. Summit County Resort Homes said that definition limits retirees, remote workers and out-of-towners who want to rent out homes.

Meanwhile, the 35-bookings-per-year cap “threatens property owners’ livelihoods,” the group said, because most of its members rely on more than 35 to pay their mortgages. Bookings are defined as stays of fewer than 30 days.

Summit County Resort Homes also warns of an unintended consequence. The group partners with the Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault, allowing people fleeing dangerous situations to stay overnight at an empty rental property. Homeowners charge only a cleaning fee, not a full rental fee, but worry that would still count as one of their 35 allotted bookings.

“For some STR homeowners, this change will make the partnership between them and Advocates for Victims of Assault not economically feasible,” the lawsuit alleges.

Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault declined to comment on that claim Wednesday.

Summit County Resort Homes Inc. is represented by lawyers Matthew Arentsen, Justin Cohen, Wayne Forman and Rosa Baum with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Denver.

POSTED IN Residential Real Estate

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