TEXAS713.936.9620 COLORADO720.863.4012

Short-Term Rentals in Colorado and Covid-19

Author: Maxwell Bridge

Contributing Editor: Blaire Farine

  • Short-term rentals under the current “safer-at-home” order.
  • Short-term rentals, local governments, and counties.
  • Limiting liability while using your property as a Short-Term Rental.

OVERVIEW

Colorado is beginning to slowly open back up, but what does this mean for vacation rentals? Do the new Covid-19 rules and regulations mean you can resume using your property as a short-term rental on sites such as Airbnb, Vrbo, HomeAway, FlipKey, and Glamping Hub, among others? The answer, yes, no, and maybe, but with strict guidelines.

On March 25, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued a Stay-at-Home Order mandating the shutdown of all non-essential businesses, being what would now constitute a “Level 1: Stay-at-Home”[1] Order. This order disallowed the use of property to be used as a short-term rental as they did not qualify as an essential business.[2] On April 27, 2020, a little over a month later, Colorado began its “safer at home” phase with Public Health Order 20-28 Safer at Home[3], representing, and lining out the beginning stages of the reopening of Colorado.

ARE SHORT-TERM RENTALS ALLOWED?

As of June 1, the “safer-at home” phase allows for short-term rentals[4] provided that the owner and/or manager of the rental abides by the conditions set forth by the State of Colorado, of which includes, but is not limited to:

  • “Provide hand sanitizer and/or soap and water that is easily accessible to guests upon arrival and during their stay.
  • Provide cleaning and/or disinfecting products for guests to use, along with instructions.
  • In alignment with the CDC Guidelines, wait 24 hours before entering the property for cleaning. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
  • Remove shared soft objects that are difficult to regularly clean if possible (i.e. extra throw blankets, decorative pillows, or other soft objects).
  • All shared linens, blankets, cloth napkins, and other fabric items must be washed between guests.”[5]

In addition to these requirements, the State explicitly says that “Owners are responsible for ensuring that the property is properly cleaned and sanitized between guests.”[6] Even though the State of Colorado currently allows for short-term rentals, it is important to understand that local governments, acting within their own authority can have their own local public health orders and variances dictating the allowance and stipulations of short-term rentals.[7]

LOCAL GOVERNMENT VARAINCES & LOCAL ORDERS

As stated above, local governments in Colorado may enact their own public health orders or apply for variances regarding the allowance of short-term rentals. Local public health orders are generally more protective than those imposed by the State. In contrast, variances, if approved by the State, are generally less protective than the State orders.[8] An example of a local government imposing different/more strict restrictions would be Park County, Colorado. Park County has submitted a variance request, detailing different requirements to the State. If approved, the variance will dictate different requirements from the State requirements, and would apply to short-term rentals in Park County.[9] If you are looking to use your property as a short-term rental, it is paramount to understand if/what the local public health orders for your area allow, and if those orders are different from the State’s.

LIMITING LIABILITY FOR OWNERS

The issue of whether a short-term rental owner or manager could be held liable if a guest claimed he or she contracted Covid-19 due to a stay in their property is a complex one. The crux of the issue most likely falls on whether said owner or manager is negligent in their cleaning practices, i.e. whether the owner or manager is following the appropriate guidelines being set forth by the State and local government. Short-term rental managers and owners should be able to limit their liability by following the appropriate guidelines and stating as such to any potential guests. Additionally, short-term rental property owners or managers could limit their risk exposure even further by requiring potential guests to sign liability waivers prior to staying at the property. However, it is important to note that this waiver would not alleviate the responsibility to abide by all State and local government requirements. Until this issue is adjudicated it is difficult to determine which side a court will land on regarding liability of short-term rental owners and managers.

Whether you are looking to use your property as a short-term rental or are simply looking to stay somewhere on vacation, it is important that you ensure that all State and local guidelines have been followed as maintaining your health and the public safety is paramount.

Nothing in this article is intended to be considered legal advice. Any property owner looking for advisement in these trying times should contact an experienced attorney who can help walk them through the ins and outs of using their property as a short-term rental. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Kearney, McWilliams & Davis, PLLC with any questions.

 

[1] Stay-at-Home Order, https://covid19.colorado.gov/stay-home-except-essential-needs.

[2] Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Fourth Updated Public Health Order 20-24 Implementing Stay at Home Requirements, https://cha.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Fourth-Updated-Public-Health-Order-Authorized-Business.pdf.

[3] Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Sixth Amended Public Health Order 20-28 Safer at Home and In the Vast, Great Outdoors, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VorTaq8-pYUv3UCYvKJ0Bl7Ozhyf7nyL/view.

[4] Jared Polis, D 2020 091 Executive Order, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TrdXm_XdRPJn2rmZsxMntLXdU2FGhT5v/view.

[5] Safer at Home: Short-term rentals, https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home/safer-at-home-short-term-rentals.

[6] Id.

[7] Local orders & variances, https://covid19.colorado.gov/public-health-executive-orders/local-orders-variances?fbclid=IwAR384AEoTKyNW58rP76EviKO3C4GYN_ejZdkL8EJy-oqlLF2kmriCv3Ra2Q.

[8] Id.

[9] Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19), http://www.parkco.us/755/Coronavirus-Disease-2019-COVID-19.Morning

Categories: