Deadwood does more to address short-term rental violations

The 1899 Inn, located at 21 Lincoln Ave., in Deadwood, is a vacation rental city officials say is operating legally, as they have a conditional use permit (CUP) for a bed and breakfast, which allows them to market their home on short-term rental websites such as Airbnb and VRBO. However the city is beginning to crack down on locations that have not gone through proper channels. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD — When it comes to short-term rental violations and an impetus to begin navigating this slippery slope and ramping up its regulation, Deadwood is taking the bull by the horns, so to speak.

The Deadwood City Commission granted permission to pay Harmari by LTAS $5,500 for the license and subscription agreement for the purpose of regulating short-term rentals.

The purchase was approved by the commission Dec. 21 and is a planning and zoning budgeted item for 2021.

“Deadwood has had a struggle throughout time dealing with short-term rentals,” said Deadwood Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeramy Russell. “As I investigated this topic, we’re in the same boat as 90% of the country is in. And this is what most cities are doing now. They’re branching out to a third-party company to assist and to help regulate these. There’s just so many different avenues for these illegal short-term rentals to market. Whether it’s after hours or just picking certain times so you can’t catch them.”

Russell said Hamari uses metadata.

“They will run their supercomputers, basically, two to three times a week and catch these illegal short-term rentals using our current zoning map and GIS system,” Russell said. “This is the direction that we need to go and this will help myself, Trent (Mohr, Deadwood building inspector), and the rest of historic preservation and planning start tackling this enormous task.”

Russell explained further how the software agreement will work.

“Harmari will use a supercomputer using metadata to run weekly audits over all short-term rental platforms, that is, AirBNB, VRBO, Expedia, Craigslist and others,” Russell said. “They will then take that data and overlay it with the city of Deadwood’s zoning map though Geographic Information System (GIS). From there they will be able to identify all legal and illegal short- term rentals.”  

Taking things a step further and into the realm of enforcement, Harmari will then begin to contact the registered owners of any illegal short-term rentals by phone, email and finally a letter from the city of Deadwood.  

“During their audit, they will have collected and retained all the information the city will need for any litigation process,” Russell said. “At this time, the software is being built for Deadwood and we hope to implement this around February 1.”

Russell said it’s very important city officials get a handle on the illegal short-term rentals in Deadwood.

“Our research has shown that Deadwood has struggled since 2003 to regulate short-term rentals,” Russell said. “It’s time-consuming on our staff and frustrating the neighborhoods. It’s also not fair to the legal short-term rental owners that are doing everything that the city and state asks, but at least 75% of the current short-term rentals in town are operating outside the lines.

Russell previously clarified that because a house is in a commercial area doesn’t necessarily mean that people can just go out and do a vacation rental.

Short-term rentals are currently prohibited by ordinance in areas zoned Residential.  

The purpose of Deadwood’s ordinance is to preserve and enhance the character of the residential districts.

The ordinance defines transient commercial use of property as the commercial use of a residential property for bed and breakfast, hostel, hotel, inn, lodging, motel, resort or other transient lodging uses where the term of occupancy, possession or tenancy of the property is for less than 30 consecutive calendar days.

The ordinance prohibits such use of property in the residential land use district. The exception is 14 days of less during the month of August, starting four days preceding the start of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally each year. Bed and breakfasts also have different definitions and rules.

The penalty for violating the ordinance is a fine of $200 per day.

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