Rentals, rentals everywhere and not a place to live. This takeoff on the words of 19th-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge perfectly describes the Sun Valley area today.

The stampede of landlords to a short-term rental market that the area’s cities don’t regulate is part of the problem.

In 2017, the cities misread and misinterpreted a new state law that forbade them from prohibiting short-term rentals. However, it did not prohibit cities or counties from regulating them in the same way they regulate hotels and other businesses.

Idaho Code 67-6539 says, “A county or city may implement such reasonable regulations as it deems necessary to safeguard the public health, safety and general welfare in order to protect the integrity of residential neighborhoods in which short-term rentals or vacation rentals operate.”

Local governments here rolled over at the mere whisper that they could do nothing. In contrast, elected officials in Sandpoint, a resort town on Lake Pend Oreille, actually read the law.

They were apparently anxious to protect neighborhoods from becoming virtual hotels and to protect public safety.

They required landlords of short-term units to make them safe for visitors and to pay all taxes. Required permits ensure that landlords can’t cheat the system by claiming a homeowner’s property tax exemption allowed by state law.

In residential zones, Sandpoint allows just one short-term rental per parcel. Owners can rent a main residence or an accessory dwelling, not both.

The city limits the number of rentals of non-owner-occupied units within residential districts to 35. Also, owners are required to notify neighbors within 200 feet that they intend to rent short-term.

Rentals must have a local representative who permanently resides within 20 miles of the city limits.

Units must meet emergency exit standards and have smoke alarms, carbon dioxide detectors and fire extinguishers. (Requirements are available online at sanpointidaho.gov.)

Blaine County and its cities should wake up, follow Sandpoint’s lead and stop pretending they can do nothing.


“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to editorialboard@mtexpress.com.

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