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Utah lawmaker proposes bill to establish new short-term rental guidelines

City Park, Jan. 22, 2024. The University of Utah's Kem Gardner Policy Institute estimates that 44% of Park City's housing is short-term rentals.
Parker Malatesta
City Park, Jan. 22, 2024. The University of Utah's Kem Gardner Policy Institute estimates that 44% of Park City's housing is short-term rentals.

A Democratic state lawmaker from Cottonwood Heights has proposed a bill that would drastically change Utah’s short-term rental industry. However, it’s unclear if it has enough support to move forward.

Utah House. Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion wants to establish a new set of guidelines for operating a short-term rental in the state. She’s been writing House Bill 180 for over two years.

“The only way for us to have a good impact where we can enjoy the benefits of short-term rentals, but also not have them operating in manners that are not healthy for our communities, is to have them all licensed,” Bennion said. “Some cities and communities like Park City offer short-term rental licenses, others don’t even offer them. So then we have some major cities in Utah with no short-term rentals licensed, but over 1,000 operating.”

Bennion said her district, which includes Cottonwood Heights, Brighton, and Alta, has many short-term rentals in areas where they are not allowed. She said that results in lost tax revenue and offers no accountability.

“In Cottonwood Heights, there have been two meth houses in short-term rentals recently found by their inspector with the owner working to resolve the problems,” she said. “I’m just concerned about the many that are operating illegally where the cities aren’t even aware of what’s happening. Nationally, there have been short-term rental homes that have been used for sex trafficking.”

HB 180 would establish several requirements for short-term rentals owners. Under the proposed bill, each rental must have a local contact within a one-hour drive. The contact can represent a maximum of 20 properties. The owner and contact also must complete an approved training course.

Other provisions include occupancy limits, and a mandate that rentals have a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, and fire extinguisher.

Bennion said she’s also worried about the gradual elimination of long-term rentals.

“I think we all recognize that Park City is kind of unique, but I’ve spoken to people who raised their family there, and they used to have a community around them, and now they don’t,” she said. “It’s time that we have some state foundation set up, we’ve let it go for too long.”

It’s estimated that 44% of housing in Park City is short-term rentals.

Bennion said she also sees positive sides of the issue.

“I’ve knocked the doors of people who are retired, and they’re able to stay in their home and pay their property tax because they use their basement as a short-term rental, especially for winter when people are skiing. And so that is an example where the short-term rental can have a lot of positive benefits, because it still has somebody permanently there, enjoying our community and being a community member, but that income is strengthening their ability to stay in their home.”

The bill sits with the House Rules Committee and Bennion is working to get the support of the Utah League of Cities and Towns ahead of a potential hearing. Both branches of the Utah Legislature are controlled by a Republican supermajority.

The 2024 Utah Legislative Session ends March 1.