Summit County Short-Term Rental Rules
Over the years, the issue of affordable workforce housing in Summit County, Colorado has steadily gained prominence. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the challenges facing the local Summit County workforce have continued to escalate. Many local businesses believe that the scarcity of affordable Summit County housing is a significant contributor to the shortage of local workers. Moreover, there's growing concern that if those employed in the area cannot afford to live locally, it may alter the very essence of Summit County's character. Consequently, since 2018 and continuing to the present day, stakeholders across Summit County have engaged in extensive discussions to address the lack of affordable housing for local employees. Various governmental authorities in Summit County have invested considerable time and effort in identifying and implementing potential measures to alleviate the local workforce housing crisis. These discussions have led to the adoption or consideration of new regulations related to Summit County short-term rental ("STR") licenses.
With the building height restrictions in place locally, Summit County does not have towering hotels with tremendous capacity to potentially serve its resort visitors. And, most locals agree the absence of such multi-story structures adds to the charm of our mountain community. However, Summit County's tourism industry relies on a healthy supply of accommodations, and short-term rentals in unincorporated Summit County play a significant role in meeting this demand. As a result, governmental bodies across Summit County are currently experimenting with changes to short-term rental rules, aiming to strike the right balance between promoting increased local workforce housing and sustaining our vital tourism sector. Consequently, the regulatory landscape is evolving rapidly.
I manage this web page on an an ongoing basis as a resource for individuals considering the purchase or sale of a Summit County property to use at least partially as a Summit County short-term rental. My goal is to provide invaluable insights into Summit County short-term rental regulations. Stay updated with the latest developments and revisions in Summit County short-term rental rules that may impact your investment decisions.
Summit County Short-Term Rentals
Property Owner FAQs
Summit County Short-Term Rental Rule Changes
Within Summit County, there are a number of incorporated towns with defined boundaries. If a property is located both within Summit County and also within the bounds of a particular town, the short-term rental rules of that particular town will apply. If instead, the property is located in Summit County but falls outside any specific town's boundaries, it is considered to be located in unincorporated Summit County (hereinafter, just "Summit County"). In such circumstances, the controlling short-term rental ("STR") rules are those promulgated by the Summit County Board of County Commissioners (“BoCC”). Accordingly, when you're thinking about the purchase of a specific Summit County property, it is especially important as a first step to determine the appropriate Summit County short-term rental jurisdiction. Examples of significant Summit County areas that fall within the BoCC's jurisdiction for enacting short-term rental rules include Copper Mountain, Dillon Valley, Keystone, Mesa Cortina, Peak 7, Summit Cove and Wildernest.
Summit County Short-Term Rental Licenses
Responsible Agent & Occupancy Limit
In December 2018, the Summit County BoCC conducted a second reading of its new Summit County short-term rental regulations. After listening to several hours of public comment, the BoCC voted on and adopted rules requiring Summit County short-term rental property owners to obtain STR licenses.
Responsible Agent for Summit County Short-Term Rentals
As part of the 2018 Summit County short-term rental rules, the BoCC also adopted a Summit County Responsible Agent requirement. For Summit County, a Responsible Agent is defined as follows: "a person or company... [who] shall be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to respond to potential issues and violations...." The BoCC established a Hotline to receive complaints that arise regarding Summit County short-term rental properties. When a member of the public submits an initial complaint concerning a Summit County short-term rental, it is directed to the Responsible Agent for the Summit County property at issue. And then, the designated Responsible Agent must affirmatively respond within one hour of notification to rectify the complaint regarding their Summit County short-term rental property. As part of their response, the Regulations also expressly require that the Summit County Responsible Agent shall "respond to the complaint, including visiting the site if necessary." If violations reported to the Hotline are not corrected or if there are repeat offenders, Summit County staff will then pursue more formal action against the Summit County short-term rental property owner.
Summit County Short-Term Rental Occupancy Limit
As part of the 2018 Summit County short-term rental rules, the BoCC also added the following Summit County short-term rental occupancy limits:
- Summit County single family homes, duplexes and townhomes: a) 2 persons per bedroom plus 4 additional occupants; OR b) 1 person per 200 square feet of living area, whichever allows for a greater occupancy
- Summit County condos: Either (a) or (b) below, whichever allows for a greater occupancy
- a) 2 persons per bedroom plus 4 additional occupants, or 2 persons per bedroom plus 2 additional occupants in buildings with interior egress components less than 44 inches wide and without a sprinkler system; OR
- b) 1 person per 200 square feet of living area
When a condominium unit contains a County-approved lock-off room that meets the definition of a lock-off room set forth in Chapter 15 of the Development Code, the lock-off room shall be allowed a total of 4 occupants.
- Summit County homes w/ Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems ("OWTS"): the maximum overnight occupancy of this Summit County short-term rental property shall be limited to the capacity established on the OWTS permit. OWTS systems in Summit County are typically designed to accommodate a maximum occupancy of 2 persons per bedroom.
Two Summit County Short-Term Rental Overlay Zones
On November 23, 2021, the BoCC conducted a first reading of proposed legislative amendments that would create overlay zones and licensing types for short-term rental properties located in Summit County. Based on community feedback, Summit County staff offered a Summit County Short-Term Rental presentation, which contained proposals for new Summit County STR license rules. The BoCC adopted two types of overlay zones for Summit County short-term rentals: the Resort Zone and the Residential Zone.
The BoCC's initial aim in 2021 was to leave short-term rentals mainly unlimited in the Resort Zone. And, as explained in greater detail in the Resort Zone section below, that is generally how circumstances currently remain.
The BoCC and County staff thereafter spent much of 2022 discussing how to implement further short-term rental restrictions in the Residential Zone. For much of 2022, the BoCC imposed a moratorium on the issuance of any new Summit County short-term rental licenses in the Residential Zone. On January 24, 2023, the County released a Staff Presentation on Summit County Short-Term Rental Regulations. In February 2023, the County released a lengthy document, outlining its proposal for new short-term rental license caps and limits on short-term rental bookings in the Neighborhood Overlay Zone. On February 15, 2023, the County acted to finalize and adopt these Summit County short-term rental license rule changes in the form of Ordinance 20-C.
Resort Zone for Summit County STR Licenses
No Cap on STR Licenses
Unlimited STR Rental Nights
In November 2021, Summit County staff reported to BoCC that some areas across Summit County have historically been used as and, to some extent, intended for short-term vacation rental occupancy in a resort context. These areas have amenities to support tourists and also have intense STR use. As a result, STR complaints from the public are relatively low in these resort areas, More specifically, although the preceding resort areas account for 65% of all STRs in Summit County, only 14% of all complaints to the STR Hotline came from resort areas. Additionally, local ownership in these resort zones is relatively low; only 10% of the owners of the units in the Resort Overlay Zone have a mailing address in Summit County. Overall, Summit County staff estimated that STRs account for approximately 41% of all housing units in the Resort Overlay Zone. In light of the preceding, BoCC designated the Summit County Resort Overlay Zone to include all of Copper Mountain, Keystone and Tiger Run RV Resort plus the SkiWatch and 4 O'Clock neighborhoods in Breckenridge.
For Summit County short-term rental properties located in the Resort Overlay Zone, there is only one type of short-term rental license: the Summit County Resort Short-Term Rental License. Essentially then, the original STR regulations adopted in 2018 apply to the Resort Short-Term Rental License, and there were no new, additional restrictions imposed in November 2021. Accordingly, the Responsible Agent requisites and occupancy limits remain the same for Summit County short-term rentals in the Resort Zone, as originally adopted in 2018. Otherwise though, if a unit has a Resort Short-Term Rental License:
- there is no cap on the number of STR licenses that will be issued; and
- there is no limit on the number of nights that the STR property can potentially be rented.
Neighborhood Zone for Summit County STR Licenses
Cap on Number of Type II STR Licenses Issued
Type III STR Licenses Temporarily Eliminated
Regarding Summit County short-term rental properties located in the Neighborhood Zone, Summit County staff reported to the BoCC that neighborhoods in the Neighborhood Zone were not generally developed as resort locales. While some individual homes may have been designed or purchased with an intent towards short-term rental use, the BoCC found that the overall subdivisions in the Neighborhood Zone were not developed to support intense, hotel-like STR use with tourist amenities. As it pertains to some areas of Summit County area, there are likely many Summit County short-term rental owners who disagree with the preceding Summit County conclusion. Additionally, the BoCC added that short-term rental complaint incidents were relatively high in the Neighborhood Zone (when compared to the Resort Zone). The County cited those complaint incidents as demonstrating tension between traditional neighborhood uses and STRs. Accordingly, the County decided to adopt more stringent restrictions for Summit County short-term rentals in the Neighborhood Zone.
Because all Summit County short-term rental properties are located in the Neighborhood Zone, there are currently two different "active" Summit County short-term rental license types and a third Summit County short-term rental license type that might become relevant once again in the future:
Type I Summit County Short-Term Rental License
(licenses currently being issued):
To be eligible for a Type I short-term rental license in the Summit County Neighborhood Zone, the STR Property must be the primary residence of a member of the local workforce, who meets the definition of a Qualified Occupant. In turn, a primary residence must be occupied by the Qualified Occupant as that individual's principal place of residence for at least 9 months out of the year, and the Summit County short-term rental licensee must be able to provide supporting documentation for that 9-month occupancy. Maximum occupancy for a Type I Summit County STR license cannot exceed 2 short-term renters per bedroom plus 2 additional short-term renters (unless further restricted by an on-site wastewater treatment system). When the Qualified Occupant is on-site during short-term rentals and is engaged in partial home rental, no more than 50% of the approved bedrooms in the home - up to 2 bedrooms - may be short-term rented. A Type I Summit County STR license carries a limitation of no more than 35 "bookings" per year, as calculated from October 1 through September 30. However, there is no limit on the number of short-term rental nights that each booking can last. Lastly, there are no caps on the issuance of Type I Summit County STR licenses; the County continues to issue them at present.
Type II Summit County Short-Term Rental License
(2023 cap prevents new licenses from being issued):
This Summit County STR license type is generally targeted toward second-homeowners who want to use their property and also short-term rent it. During discussions in 2021, Summit County staff anticipated that the vast majority of STRs in the Neighborhood Zone would fall under this license type. Maximum occupancy for a Type II Summit County STR license cannot exceed 2 short-term renters per bedroom plus 2 additional short-term renters (unless further restricted by an on-site wastewater treatment system). A Type II Summit County STR license carries a limitation of no more than 35 "bookings" per year, as calculated from October 1 through September 30. However, there is no limit on the number of short-term rental nights that each booking can last.
Most importantly of all, the County implemented total cap numbers on the issuance of new Type II short-term rental licenses in the Summit County Residential Zone. The entirety of the Summit County Residential Zone is located within one of four basins as depicted in this map. The County created different short-term rental license caps for properties located in each of the four basins. Within each of the four basins, the number of active short-term rental licenses in February 2023 already exceeded the established cap numbers for Type II STR licenses. Accordingly, until the total number of Type II STR licenses in falls below the adopted cap number for each basin through natural attrition, the County will not issue new Type II STR licenses in the Residential Zone. Natural attrition generally occurs when property owners with existing Type II Summit County short-term rental licenses either: (1) do not renew their existing Summit County short-term rental license; or (2) sell their property to a third-party (such a sale extinguishes an existing license). In sum, Summit County short-term rental caps were established by the BoCC as per the chart in the preceding link. As of December 2023, here are the Summit County short-term license numbers for Type II in the Residential Zone areas:
- Lower Blue Basin cap: 550 (607 Type II STR licenses issued)
- Upper Blue Basin cap: 590 (678 Type II STR licenses issued)
- Snake River Basin cap: 130 (189 Type II STR licenses issued)
- Ten Mile Basin cap: 20 (30 Type II licenses issued)
When the number of existing STR licenses in any of the four basins eventually falls within 10% of its corresponding cap, the County previously pledged to create a wait list for submitting new Type II Summit County short-term rental licenses. However, in an email dated February 8, 2024, the County's STR Program Coordinator stated they only check Summit County short-term rental license numbers once a year. Because that process occurs "every January", the STR Program Coordinator likewise confirmed that they will not have awareness until late December 2024 or January 2025 that existing short-term rental license numbers in any the four basins might potentially have dropped within 10% of its STR license cap. Accordingly, it appears unlikely that the County will commence a wait list process before January 2025 for submission of new Type II Summit County short-term rental licenses.
Type III Summit County Short-Term Rental License
In 2018, the BoCC created a Type III Summit County short-term rental license, stating it was most appropriate for investment property STRs. At that time, the County believed such STRs would rent in excess of 135 nights per year, and the County saw them as more akin to commercial lodging businesses. However, as part of the adoption of Ordinance 20-C on Feb. 15, 2023, the BoCC, the County eliminated the Type III Summit County STR license. So, at least for now, there is no Type III Summit County short-term rental license that afforded unlimited short-term rental nights to certain Summit County properties located in the Residential Zone. While it couldn't do so at the meeting on Feb. 15, 2023, the BoCC did pledge to revisit Type III short-term rental licenses in the near future. The BoCC stated that it hoped the County would find a way to reinstate a short-term rental license with unlimited rental nights to properties that were originally designed with a primary purpose to host short-term rental occupancies. However, unless and until that happens, all Type III STR licenses in the Neighborhood Zone will be converted to Type II STR licenses when renewal takes place in 2023.
Need Help Understanding Summit County Short-Term Rental Regulations?
If you’re interested in further discussing local real estate and how short-term rental license regulation changes might potentially affect your decision to buy or sell a property in Summit County, please don’t hesitate to contact Philip for help. After all, if you made it to this point, you’ll agree I’ve written "the book" when it comes to Summit County short-term rental rules!