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Many vacation rental owners still haven’t registered

A large crowd attends a hearing on rules for short-term rental units in Lake Placid in August 2019. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — The deadline for short-term vacation rental owners to apply for a permit is in less than two weeks. Many properties remain unregistered.

A total of 161 permit applications had been submitted to the Building and Planning Department as of Monday. That includes a few applications that were received weeks ago, before the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid postponed enforcement of its new joint short-term vacation rental law and extended the deadline to apply for a permit to July 31 as new Host Compliance software was brought online.

That’s 149 more than the 12 applications that were submitted in the first three weeks after the law went into effect. Still, the town’s enforcement officer, Michael Orticelle, suspects there’s a lot of property owners who still haven’t applied yet.

“People are having difficulty doing the application online. Some people are claiming they never heard of it,” Orticelle said. “I know a lot more people that are renting that I haven’t heard from yet.”

New Host Compliance software being used by the department indicates there are 648 rental properties in this area. That would be somewhat in line with the estimate of AirDNA, a website that aggregates data from listings on Airbnb and VRBO, which estimates at least 609 short-term rental properties in the Lake Placid area. But Orticelle said that the Host Compliance estimate may not be accurate because the software seems to include multiple listings for the same properties. He believes the total is likely much less.

Short-term vacation rental owners have had to register with the Essex County treasurer’s office, to ensure they’re paying occupancy taxes, since 2016. But just how many of these properties exist within the town and the village isn’t clear. Enforcement of the county’s occupancy tax law has been made difficult by the decision of some online platforms to keep user information confidential, making independent verification impossible; a patchwork of collection agreements, property owner education challenges and the continuing growth of the vacation rental market, with new listings popping up every month. Airbnb and VRBO don’t register users with the county — hosts have to do that on their own, though Airbnb voluntarily collects the county’s occupancy tax on behalf of its users and remits the revenue to the county.

Essex County Weights and Measures Director Wayne Taylor, the person tasked with identifying and reaching out to rental owners who may not be in compliance with the law, told the Enterprise late last year that in Lake Placid alone, he found that nearly half of all rentals hadn’t been registered with the county treasurer’s office. That discrepancy called into question whether many of those properties have been paying occupancy taxes. Bookings at hotels, vacation rentals, motels, hostels and bed and breakfasts made on or after June 1 are taxed at 5%.

In the town of North Elba, the Building and Planning Department will begin to enforce the local short-term rental law on Aug. 1, according to Orticelle.

“On Aug. 1, if you’re renting without a permit or haven’t submitted paperwork, you’ll be in violation of the law, and that will start a series of fines that will come your way,” he said.

The fine for the first week of noncompliance is $350. There’s a different fine for each subsequent week.

Permit applications must be completed by a rental owner. Prior to starting the application, the town and village have suggested that property owners have all of their application materials ready, including:

•  A site plan

•  An information and signature page for all members with ownership interest

•  24/7 emergency contact information

•  An occupancy tax registration certificate from Essex County

•  Information on the type of short-term rental being operated

•  SWIS (Statewide Information System) code — the town of North Elba’s code is 154089; the village of Lake Placid’s is 154001

•  Parcel identification number, which can also be found in a number of places, including at essex-gis.co.essex.ny.us

•  A map and description of a parking plan provided to guests

•  Chimney inspection report (if applicable)

•  Septic inspection report (if applicable)

•  A copy of the deed.

Relevant forms and details of submissions are available on the town’s STR page at www.northelba.org/?page=government/code-enforcement/short-term-rental.

Orticelle estimated that once rental owners have all of the required materials available, the application process can take no more than 15 minutes.

Permit fees are processed through Host Compliance and are due at the time of application. Fees range from $200 for a studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental to $1,200 for a home with more than nine bedrooms. Payment can be made via a checking account or credit card. People who rent out their properties for fewer than 14 days each year still have to apply for a permit, but don’t have to pay for permits.

The Building and Planning Department has 30 days to review each owners’ application materials and issue or deny the permit. Permits are emailed to owners. Permits must be renewed each year and expire on the second anniversary of issue date.

To complete an application, visit secure.hostcompliance.com/north-elba-ny/permit-registration. More information on the short-term rental registration program can be found on the town’s website at http://www.northelba.org/?page=government/code-enforcement/short-term-rental.

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