Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Clark County:

Ordinance working, but party houses still around, commissioner says

For groups of visitors traveling to Las Vegas, renting a home for a few days or a week in a residential neighborhood can be a cost-effective alternative to staying at a hotel on the Strip.

A quick Google search turns up hundreds of vacation homes for rent, with daily and weekly rates listed. The only catch: Renting property for less than a month is illegal under Clark County code.

Despite the ban on short-term rentals, which carries a $1,000-per-day fine for property owners who violate the ordinance, enforcing the regulation is a constant battle for code enforcement officers, who rely on complaints from neighbors to identify the homes.

Complaints from neighbors detail a variety of events taking place at these “party houses,” including weddings, birthday celebrations and large pool parties, according to county records.

After levying a $29,000 fine in March for the short-term rental of a home in the tony Spanish Palms neighborhood, county commissioners said they expected to see more similar cases.

Since then, the county’s Public Response Office has opened 10 investigations into party house complaints at locations scattered across the western and southwestern valley, but none has resulted in a fine requiring commission approval, according to county records.

Still, websites such as vrbo.com and vacationrentalpeople.com regularly advertise for hundreds of vacation rentals in Las Vegas. Options include everything from a smaller three-bedroom house that rents for $120 per day to a 1-acre palatial estate with a large pool, a putting green and a wedding parlor capable of accommodating more than 20 people, which rents for $400 per day.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said he’s concerned about short-term rentals “disrupting the quality of life” in neighborhoods. Even though party houses persist around the valley – and despite the efforts of county code enforcement – Sisolak said he thought the current system was working.

“I don’t see any immediate need change to it,” he said. “We’re interested in people complying, not necessarily punishing them.”

The nuisances created by a revolving door of short-term renters, who come from as far away as India, are usually limited to loud music late at night and piles of trash left by the curb. But the transient nature of the people using the homes comes with dangers: In December, Metro Police officers responded to a home under investigation by the county in the southwest valley where shots reportedly were fired.

Code enforcement officers respond to all complaints about party houses, but because many operate under the radar, officers don’t have time to proactively seek them out, Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said.

“Code enforcement can and will investigate violations on their own if they see them. If we go to your neighborhood to investigate a complaint, and two houses down there’s refrigerators in the front yard, obviously code enforcement is going to deal with that also,” Kulin said. “The issue really is: They are so busy with all of the complaints that they get, they’re constantly responding to those that come up.”

Of the 10 cases investigated by the county since March, eight have been closed. No fines have been imposed in those cases because the owners filed rehabilitation plans to change their behavior. Code enforcement officers will continue to inspect the homes for a year and can restart the fines if the homeowners are out of compliance.

On follow-up inspections, officers found the homes either weren’t being rented or had long-term tenants.

Two active cases are still accruing fines, but owners could have them lifted after filing and complying with a rehabilitation plan.

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