Report: 460 short-term rentals in Truckee not paying lodging taxes

Amanda Rhoades
According to private research firm AirDNA, there were 757 active listings in Truckee on AirBnB alone during the month of September.
Courtesy AirBnB |

What about Placer County?

Meanwhile, the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted last week to approve a contract with Host Compliance to start assessing the county’s own short-term rental market.

In an email to the Sun, county spokesperson DeDe Cordell wrote that the county plans to use Host Compliance to determine the number of properties listed on short-term rental sites, the address of each property, when each property is listed as available for rental, and to compare the listings with county registration information.

“This will help us determine how much TOT is being lost and which properties to work with on compliance,” Cordell said.

According to the county, the cost of the contract is not to exceed $248,000, although an exact cost wasn’t clear as of this story’s deadline.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — If you own a short-term rental property and haven’t been keeping up on your Transient Occupancy Tax payments, you may want to start.

Recently, San Francisco-based research firm Host Compliance, which was hired by the town of Truckee, identified about 460 short-term rentals within town limits that are not paying the tax.

“The proliferation of online rentals kind of changed the dynamic of short-term rentals,” said Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook. “So we came to the conclusion that we’ve probably go a lot of folks not paying TOT.”

A Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT, is a fee levied on things like hotel rooms or any other lodging bill for a stay of less than 30 days. Short-term rentals, like when a homeowner places a room on AirBnB, are taxed at the same rate.

“We discovered a start-up that had come up with a methodology to determine where short term rentals were, basically by data mining their ads,” Lashbrook said last week. “… We hired them in late June and we’re getting the responses and reaching out to property owners now.”

The town approved a one-year, $70,000 contract with the company, Lashbrook said.

Truckee’s TOT rate is 12 percent, which includes a 2 percent “Truckee Tourism Business Improvement District” fee that was tacked onto the 10 percent TOT rate last year.

“Our company really only does one thing, which is help local governments deal with the challenges that have come up with the growth of the short-term rental,” said Host Compliance Founder and CEO Ulrik Binzer.

He said that the focus of his company, which has been around for about a year, is to help communities identify which properties are being used for short-term rentals and to help come up with strategies to manage them.

“We scan all the different websites all the time, and whenever we find a property, we run it through a bunch of algorithms and have a group of analysts look at the data,” Ulrik said. “Everything is done with a combination of computers and people to make sure we have a very high level of accuracy.”

Lashbrook told the Sun in an email Monday that the amount of TOT the town is owed is “too difficult to pin down.”

Binzer also said that the figure of lost money is difficult to calculate, but he was able to shed some light on how bad the TOT problem is for Truckee.

“Before we came in, about 42 percent of the short-term rentals in Truckee didn’t have a permit,” he said.

Lashbrook said that the town has somewhere around 1,500 short-term rentals, but calculating the total number of those listings is complicated because they can be active, inactive, registered or unregistered.

A short-term rental that isn’t registered with the town may be left out of some counts, and so can a property that is sometimes used to host guests but isn’t being actively advertised at the time.

According to a report provided to the Sun by private research firm AirDNA, there were 757 active listings in Truckee on AirBnB alone during the month of September.

Despite the fact Host Compliance hasn’t been around very long, the company also has been hired in communities like Durango, Colo., and Jackson Hole, Wyo., to help assess the short-term housing market there.

Back in Truckee, Lashbrook said, “We’re trying to make sure that people who are doing it are doing it right and that no one has an unfair business advantage.”

He added that the town ordinance requiring the owners of short-term rentals to pony up the tax has “been on the books for decades.”

“That’s what the ordinance says, and it has since before incorporation,” he said.

The town is giving homeowners who have fallen behind a little leeway by not imposing interest or fines as long as the backed taxes are paid within 60 days.

“We’re asking people to settle up going back to Oct. 1, 2015, and if they do that in a timely manner we will not charge the applicable penalties and interest,” Lashbrook said.

In a follow up email to the Sun, he added, “We are sending the letters out to unregistered short term renters in batches. Short-term renters are being provided 60 days to register and pay taxes owed back to last October without penalty.”

For those who don’t pay their overdue taxes within the 60-day window, fines will start at 10 percent and increase each month up to 50 percent. The interest rate is 15 percent.

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