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City Cracks Down On Unlicensed Short Term Rentals

By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) - The City of Denver has begun slapping the owners and operators of unlicensed short term rentals with $150 fines that will escalate if the owners don't comply with the law.

"That license is what allows us to keep those places accountable," said Dan Rowland, who's with Denver's Department of Excise and License. "Without it, we don't know who people are or what they are doing."

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So far, the city has issued 18 citations to short term rental operators who have been marketing their rentals on sites like Airbnb, and VRBO.

Authorities have been sniffing out scofflaws through neighborhood complaints, but also by employing a $75,000 software system that searches short term rental sites, and those results are then cross-referenced with a list of licensed STRs in Denver to reveal who has been operating without proper licensing.

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"This isn't a giant revenue stream," said Rowland. "The licensing fee is low, the fines start at $150 ... it's about addressing what we saw as a burgeoning industry with neighborhood concerns about quality of life and trying to balance those things."

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Dan Rowland (credit: CBS)

Prior to the citations, the city sent out 1,500 warnings advising short term rental owners of their violations and informing them how to get licensed.

Ratcheting up the pressure to get licensed has caused about a 1/3 drop in the number of short term rentals in Denver.

The City of Denver says its compliance rate is around 60 percent.

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Nick Papas, who speaks for Airbnb, told CBS4, "We support regulation, we want home sharing to be regulated in Denver and thousands of cities around the world where we have listings."

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

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