Sunday, July 14, 2024

Chelan County actively pursuing illegal STR operations

Unpermitted operations will get a warning letter before fines are imposed

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Wenatchee-With a fully staffed Code Enforcement Unit and the review of all provisional permits now complete, Chelan County Community Development advises short-term rental owners that the county is actively pursuing unpermitted operations.

“We are in a better position now to be able to respond to callers who have concerns about short-term rentals illegally operating in their neighborhoods,” said Kirsten Ryles, manager of Community Development’s Short-Term Rental Division.

“Unpermitted operators will get one warning, advising them to cease operations until they have an approved permit. If they don’t, fines will be imposed.”

After receiving a warning letter, people who continue to operate an unpermitted short-term rental will be fined $750 a day, as provided in Chelan County Code.

“We have already sent out some warning letters,” Ryles said. “I highly recommend that any unpermitted, illegal short-term rentals stop – and give us a call. In some areas of the county where the short-term rental cap hasn’t been met, [they were] able to make [a] July 29 deadline for filling out an application for operating in 2023.”

Community Development has issued 721 short-term rental permits so far to Tier 1 applicants and those operations that were grandfathered in and met short-term rental regulations. In July 2021, when Chelan County commissioners passed a new code establishing the operating standards of the county’s short-term rental industry, Community Development estimated as many as 1,300 short-term rentals are operating locally.

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office now has a three-officer staff in its Code Enforcement Unit. The officers are charged with enforcing building and land-use regulations within the unincorporated areas of Chelan County.

Ryles encourages people who wish to make a complaint to code enforcement to use the online form on the county’s website. (www.co.chelan.wa.us/community-development/pages/code-enforcement) The form should be filled out completely so officers have the details to respond. Staff will not fill out the form for the public.

“Please include your name and contact information,” Ryles said. “We need verifiable complaints in order to respond. We do not respond to anonymous complaints.”

Later this year, the Short-Term Rental Division expects to seek an outside vendor to add more tools to enforce the county’s short-term rental codes. A third-party contractor would allow for better monitoring of the industry in Chelan County, including providing a 24-hour complaint hotline and the reviewing of permitted operations versus unpermitted, Ryles said.

The Short-Term Rental Division is currently reviewing all new Tier 2 and Tier 3 applications; it has about 122 applications to review at this time. Applications for new short-term rentals were accepted until July 29, 2022. 

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