Summit County Short-Term Rental Rules

Image - Summit County Short-Term Rental Rules

Over the years, affordable workforce housing has steadily increased in prevalence as an issue in Summit County, Colorado. However, since the onset of Covid-19, the challenge for the Summit County local workforce has continued to mount. And, many local businesses believe the lack of such housing is a significant factor driving worker shortages. Plus, if those employed here cannot live locally, many are concerned there will be a potential shift in the "character of Summit County". Accordingly, starting in 2018 and carrying on to the present, stakeholders across Summit County have discussed possible solutions for the lack of affordable housing in Summit County for local employees. And, various governmental authorities across Summit County have expended significant time and effort to find and implement measures that might potentially ease the local workforce housing crisis. Stemming from these various meetings, governmental bodies across Summit County have either adopted or are considering adopting new regulations regarding 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 tourism nonetheless relies on a healthy supply of places to stay, and short-term rentals in unincorporated Summit County certainly comprise a significant component in that regard. As a result, governmental bodies across Summit County are currently in an experimentation phase, enacting short-term rental rule changes in an effort to find the right balance between fostering increased local workforce housing while sustaining our vital tourism business. In turn, the regulatory landscape is quickly changing. As a resource for folks interested in potentially purchasing Summit County real estate and using their home to conduct short-term rentals in Summit County, my aim is to maintain this informational resource for learning more about Summit County short-term rental rules.

Summit County Short-Term Rentals
Property Owner FAQs

Which jurisdiction controls your Summit County short-term rental license?

The towns of Blue River, Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne have narrowly defined geographical borders.  Their rules obviously apply only to properties falling within their specific boundaries.  A surprising number of properties nearby to Blue River, Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne are actually outside official town borders and are instead located in unincorporated portions of  Summit County.  And, Summit County short-term rental rules differ significantly, dependent upon where a particular property is located.  As a result, it’s extremely important to understand which local governmental jurisdiction controls a potential short-term rental property in Summit County.

If you’re unsure whether a property is located within a particular town or instead in unincorporated Summit County, there’s a quick way to figure it out.

  1. Go online to the Summit County GIS tool
  2. Accept the County disclaimer.
  3. Enter the property address.
  4. Once the property appears at the bottom of the page, the bottom-left-corner field will say “Jurisdiction”.  It will tell you if the property is subject to the short-term rental rules of a specific town (Blue River, Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne) or instead if it is in unincorporated Summit County.

Image - Summit County Short-Term Rental Rules

What constitutes a short-term rental in Summit County?

Any Summit County Property Rental Less Than 30 Consecutive Days

Since unincorporated portions of Summit County falls within the jurisdiction of the Summit County Board pf County Commissioners ("BoCC"), we must turn to Summit County Short-Term Rental Ordinance No. 20-B, as amended on November 23, 2021.

Section 1.1(b) of the Summit County short-term rental ordinance defines the term "short-term vacation rental property" to be "a residential dwelling unit, or any room therein, available for lease or exchange for a term of less than thirty (30) consecutive days...."  Accordingly, the Summit County short-term rental rules seek to address the common scenario, where a Summit County property owner seeks to use popular platforms like AirBnb, VRBO and others to rent their home to tourists visiting for periods of less than 30 days.  If you conduct any (even just one) rental of your Summit County property for a period of time less than 30 consecutive days, the prevailing rules that apply to Summit County require you to obtain a short-term rental license from County government, and you must follow all Summit County short-term rental rules that are applicable to your Summit County property.

If you're a Summit County property owner who only plans to conduct property rentals for periods of time that are  thirty consecutive days long or greater, Ordinance 20-B has no application whatsoever.  in that case, there is no need for you to apply for or obtain a Summit County short-term rental license for your Summit County property.  Rentals longer than 30 consecutive days in length are generally considered long-term rentals.  Long-term rentals rentals are encouraged, because they help provide housing to local employees. In fact, Summit County and the Town of Breckenridge actually provide incentives for long-term leases to locals.  With that in mind, no new regulations or restrictions are currently contemplated for rentals over 30 days.

Summit County Short-Term Rental Rule Changes

Within Summit County, there are a number of incorporated towns with defined boundaries.  When 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.  For this reason, it is especially important as a first step to determine the appropriate short-term rental jurisdiction for the property in question.  If the particular property is 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”).  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 | No Cap

Summit County Responsible Agent for Short-Term Rentals

As part of those short-term rental ("STR") license 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 Summit County Responsible Agent must be able to affirmatively respond to the complaint within one hour of notification. 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.

Summit County Short-Term Rental Occupancy Limit

The BoCC also added the following Summit County short-term rental occupancy limits:

  • Single family, duplex and townhome units: 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
  • Condominium units: 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.

  • Units w/ Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems ("OWTS"): the maximum overnight occupancy of the unit 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.

No Cap on Summit County Short-Term Rental Licenses

The BoCC declined to cap or limit the number of allowable short-term rental properties in Summit County.  Accordingly, there is no rule in place that either caps or limits the total number of Summit County short-term licenses that will be issued.

Sept. 17, 2021 to Dec. 16, 2021
90-Day Moratorium on Summit County Short-Term Rental Licenses

In the fall of 2021, the BoCC conducted meetings to hear public comment and discuss solutions to the local housing crisis. On September 14, 2021, the BoCC passed a temporary 90-day moratorium on new Summit County short-term rental licenses. STR license renewals and conversions were unaffected. The BOCC’s 90-day STR license moratorium wholly excluded the Keystone, Copper Mountain and Peak 8 resort areas. The BOCC’s short-term license moratorium for Summit County took effect at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 17, 2021 and thereafter ended on December 16, 2021. During that temporary moratorium, the BoCC and County staff pledged to examine data with the aim of proposing narrow regulatory amendments that will prevent the continuing loss of long-term housing units.

Nov. 2021
Creation of Summit County Short-Term Rental License Types

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.

Resort Overlay Zone for Summit County STR Licenses

Summit County staff reported to BoCC that there are areas across Summit  County that 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 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, the original STR regulations adopted in 2018 will apply to the Resort Short-Term Rental License.  Accordingly, if a unit has a Resort Short-Term Rental License, there are no limits on the number of nights that it can potentially be rented.  Additionally, the current Responsible Agent requisites and occupancy limits will remain the same. If you have an existing active STR license as of December 16, 2021 and your property is located in the Resort Zone, your current license will be converted to a Resort Short-Term Rental License during renewal in September 2022.

Neighborhood Overlay Zone for Summit County STR Licenses

The Neighborhood Overlay Zone will encompass all other properties in unincorporated Summit County that are not in the Resort Overlay Zone.  Summit County staff reported to BoCC that these areas were not developed as resort neighborhoods. While some individual homes may have been designed or purchased with an intent towards STR use, the BoCC found that the neighborhoods themselves were not developed to support intense, hotel-like STR use with tourist amenities.  Additionally, incidences of complaints are relatively high when compared to the Resort Zone, demonstrating tension between traditional neighborhood uses and STRs.

For short-term rental properties located in the Neighborhood Overlay Zone, there will be three different license types:

  • Type I Short-Term Rental License:  This license type may only be obtained by a property owner who uses the property as their primary residence. A Type I License is for a property owner who rents a bedroom in their home throughout the year or rents their home as an entire unit when they go on vacation.  When the property owner is present and offering a bedroom for rent, there will be no limit on the number of nights that the bedroom may be rented annually. When the property owner is not present and chooses to rent the entire home, 60 nights per year will be the allowable limit.
  • Type II Short-Term Rental License: This license type is targeted toward second-homeowners who want to use their property and short-term rent it.  With that said, a Summit County local who uses the property as their primary residence but wishes to rent their entire home in excess of 60 nights, could apply for this license type.  A Type II License will allow owners to rent their property for up to 135 nights a year, while using it for themselves the rest of the year.  Summit County staff anticipates that the vast majority of STRs in the Neighborhood Zone would fall under this license type.
  • Type III Short-Term Rental License: The County sees this license type as most appropriate for investment property STRs.  They are typically rented in excess of 135 nights per year, and the County sees them as more akin to commercial lodging businesses.  Owners, who want unlimited Summit County short-term rentals (or anything in excess of 135 nights per year), will first have to apply for a Conditional Use Permit ("CUP").  To obtain a CUP, the BoCC established the following minimum standards needed to obtaining approval:
    • Owners of single family homes must show the following to obtain a CUP:
      • Separation from occupied spaces of at least 100 feet separation, as measured between closest points, between all indoor/outdoor occupied spaces. Occupied spaces includes fire pits, hot tub, residences, but will not include sheds or detached garages; OR
      • The single family home must have an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in compliance with County code
      • If lot is smaller than 40,000 sq ft, it goes through the Conditional Use Permit Class 4 process, reviewed by the County Planning Commission. Occupancy is 2 persons per bedroom plus 2 total additional persons
      • If lot is bigger than 40,000 sq ft, it will go through the CUP class 2 process reviewed by County staff.  Occupancy is 2 per bedroom plus 2 but can apply for additional occupancy if it goes through the Class 4 review process
    • Owners of Multi-family properties must have all of the following to obtain a CUP:
      • Direct shuttle to ski area(s) or transit stop within 100’ from property
      • Substantial Recreation-Based Shared Amenities, 3 of the following: Pool, hot tub, sauna, tennis / pickle ball courts, game room, or other substantial amenity as approved by the Review Authority
      • A minimum of 100 units in the HOA
      • Occupancy maximum will be 2 guests per bedroom plus 2 persons

As of the time of this writing, the County does not maintain lists of local, multi-family properties that have been pre-determined to meet the preceding three requirements for shuttles, amenities and minimum number of units; instead, each applicant must produce corresponding proof regarding the three requisites while submitting a CUP for a multi-family property.

The Summit County STR CUP process usually takes about 2-4 weeks (although that is always subject to change).  Once a Summit County property owner receives approval of their CUP application, they may then apply for and obtain a Type III short-term rental license.

Dec. 2021
Formal Adoption of Summit County STR License Rules

On December 16, 2021, the BoCC conducted a second reading of its new Summit County short-term rental ordinance. After listening to several hours of public comment, the BoCC voted on and adopted the final version of its various short-term rental amendments. If you had an active Summit County STR license or applied for a Summit County STR license before the new regulations were adopted on December 16, 2021, you will have until September 2025 to convert your current Summit County STR license to one of the preceding three new license types. With that said, a Summit County STR property owner could also elect to convert during any renewal period prior to 2025.

Last but not least, the BoCC adopted new fees for Summit County short-term rental licenses, which are as follows:

  • Neighborhood Zone, Type I STR License: $200
  • Neighborhood Zone, Type II STR License: $300
  • Neighborhood Zone, Type III STR License: $100 (does not include STR CUP fee - see below)
  • Pre-existing STR License Renewal: $500

The filing fee for a Summit County STR CUP is $200 (above and beyond the STR license fee). As previously noted above, an STR CUP is required for all Type III STR licenses in the Summit County Neighborhood Overlay Zone.

May 24, 2022 to Feb. 23, 2023
9-Month Moratorium on new Summit County Short-Term Rental Licenses

On May 24, 2022, the BoCC conducted a public hearing that started with County Staff presenting a Summit County Short-Term Rental Data Update. Despite their own past efforts to address loss of local workforce housing, the BoCC concluded that short-term rentals in the Neighborhood Overlay Zone would continue to increase in 2022, unless it took further action. Even though the BoCC enacted new Summit County STR policy in the fall of 2021, the County represented that the number of STR licenses had nonetheless significantly increased. As a result, the BoCC passed Resolution 2022-36, and it took effect immediately on May 24. The chief focus of the Resolution was to create a 9-month moratorium on new Summit County short-term rental licenses from May 24, 2022 to Feb. 23, 2023.

As provided on its STR Moratorium page, the County explained the purpose of the moratorium on new Summit County STR licenses as follows:

[to] allow staff time to propose new regulations to address the increase in STRs in the Neighborhood Overlay Zone and their impact on local workforce housing, as well as to address inconsistencies and conflicts within the Land Use and Development Code (“Code”) regarding commercial lodging operations and short-term vacation rentals.

It’s important to reiterate that the 9-month STR moratorium only applies to the issuance of new Summit County STR licenses. As such, the moratorium does not affect:

  • Any already-existing STR licenses for Summit County properties. All current STR license holders can continue forward as permitted by the terms of their existing license;
  • Any pending Summit County STR license applications that were submitted prior to 3:35PM MT on May 24, 2022; or
  • Any Summit County STR license renewals.

The County created a process for requesting a Special Exception to the 9-Month STR Moratorium, but it only applies in the following two circumstances:

  1. Property Under Construction To qualify as an owner of a property under construction, you must have passed a Foundation Wall inspection from the Building Inspection Department prior to or within 30 days of the enactment of the moratorium; or
  2. Property Under Contract To qualify, you must have been under contract on a property prior to May 25, 2022

The Special Exception process includes an application that can be submitted at a cost of $780, and it closes on June 23, 2022.  In sum, with extremely limited exceptions, no one in the Neighborhood Overlay Zone can obtain a new Summit County short-term rental license until the moratorium ends on Feb. 23, 2023.

Summary of Summit County Short-Term Rental Rules

Within Summit County, there are a number of incorporated towns with defined boundaries.  When a particular property is 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”).  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.

While operating a Summit County short-term rental, property owners must designate a Responsible Agent, and there are also occupancy limits by which Summit County short-term rental owners must abide.

Additionally, all Summit County short-term rental property owners must apply for STR licenses through Summit County.  There is no limit or cap on the number of Summit County short-term rental licenses that will be issued.  However, for Summit County short-term rental licenses, the BoCC adopted two types of overlay zones based on property location for Summit County short-term rentals:

  1. The Summit County Resort Overlay Zone includes all of Copper Mountain, Keystone and Tiger Run RV Resort plus the SkiWatch and 4 O'Clock neighborhoods in Breckenridge.
  2. The Neighborhood Overlay Zone encompasses all other properties in unincorporated Summit County that are not in the Resort Overlay Zone.

If your Summit County short-term rental property is located in the Resort Overlay Zone, there is no limit on the number of nights that a property owner may rent their unit on an annual basis.  And, for Summit County properties in the Resort Overlay Zone, there is no moratorium whatsoever in effect.  At this time. County government continues to receive, evaluate and process new short-term rental license applications submitted for Summit County properties in the Resort Overlay Zone.

If your Summit County short-term rental property is located in the Neighborhood Overlay Zone, there are three short-term rental license types.  There is a Type III license that applies to some properties and allows property owners to conduct short-term rentals on an unlimited basis.  Nonetheless, most Summit County short-term rental properties fit into a Type II license, which permits 135 nights of short-term rentals on an annual basis.    With the preceding said, for properties located in the Neighborhood Overlay Zone, there is currently a 9-Month moratorium in effect on the issuance of new Summit County short-term rental licenses that ends on Feb. 23, 2023.  With extremely limited exceptions, no one in the Neighborhood Overlay Zone can obtain a new Summit County short-term rental license until the moratorium ends.

Need Help Understanding Summit County Short-Term Rentals?

If you’re interested in further discussing local real estate and how STR license 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!