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 housing is a significant contributor to the shortage of 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. 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.
This characteristic is cherished by most locals. 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.
As a valuable resource for individuals considering Summit County real estate investments for short-term rentals, 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 policies that may impact your investment decisions.
Summit County Short-Term Rentals
Property Owner FAQs
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.
- Go online to the Summit County GIS tool
- Accept the County disclaimer.
- Enter the property address.
- 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.
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
In December 2018, 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 regulations 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 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
As part of the 2018 Summit County short-term rental rules, 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.
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 potentially 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 STR 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
All Wildernest short-term rental properties fall within the Neighborhood Zone established by Summit County government. Summit County staff reported to BoCC that areas in the Neighborhood Zone were not 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 already exceeds 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 as per the chart in the preceding link, and it appears that no new short-term rental licenses will be issued in the Summit County Residential Zone until sometime in 2025 (at the earliest). Once the STR license numbers in any basin are within 10% of reaching their cap, Summit County staff will put in place a system on how to issue new Type II licenses in that basin.
Type III Summit County Short-Term Rental License (temporarily eliminated):
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 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!
While the County was exploring options on how to reduce increases in Summit County short-term rentals, it implemented two moratoriums on the issue of new STR licenses. One took place during a three-month period in 2021. The other took place during a nine-month period in 2022 and 2023. While neither moratorium is currently in place and have been superseded by the issuance of Summit County short-term rental caps, the following content will remain on the site to provide historical context.
1st Moratorium on New County Short-Term Rental Licenses
Sept. 17, 2021 to Dec. 16, 2021
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 the issuance of 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 September 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.
2nd Moratorium on New County Short-Term Rental Licenses
May 24, 2022 to Feb. 23, 2023
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.
At that time, 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 did 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 applied in the following two circumstances:
- 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
- Property Under Contract To qualify, you must have been under contract on a property prior to May 25, 2022
The Special Exception process included an application that could be submitted at a cost of $780, and it closed on June 23, 2022.