Summit County homeowners filed a federal lawsuit on Monday, Aug. 14, to halt new regulations on short-term rental properties in unincorporated parts of the county.
The lawsuit alleges the Summit Board of County Commissioners imposed “successively more severe, wide-ranging, misguided and unlawful regulations” when they voted to implement caps on short-term rental licenses and limits on bookings earlier this year.
For decades, short-term rentals “have been a fixture across Summit County and have supported the county’s economy,” the lawsuit states.
It claims the new regulations treat county homeowners differently, threaten their livelihoods and violate a number of property rights under the United States Constitution and Colorado state law.
As of this article’s publication, Todd Ruelle, a county homeowner who is listed as a plaintiff, has not responded to a request for comment from the Summit Daily News.
Summit County Resort Homes Inc., a nonprofit representing 89 county property owners, is listed as a second plaintiff. Richard Mason, one of its directors, has also not responded to a request for comment.
When reached by phone, county spokesperson Dave Rossi could not provide immediate comment.
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Commissioners have been anticipating legal action over their short-term rental policies since at least late March when they became aware of a post in a Facebook group run by property owners that outlined potential litigation against the county.
“We believe the claims that have been threatened are without merit,” said County Attorney Jeff Huntley during an April 4 commissioners’ meeting. “We think that we would be able to successfully defend any litigation against the county.”
The county’s regulations, set to go into effect in September when short-term rental licenses are renewed, were approved unanimously by commissioners on Feb. 15. They joined elected officials from the towns of Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne, who had all previously approved restrictions.
The new rules limit the number of properties that can hold short-term rental licenses in the unincorporated county’s various basins, ranging from 5% to 18%. In areas defined as “resort overlay zones,” such as Copper, there is no limit.
Resort zones account for roughly 63% of all short-term rental properties, while neighborhoods where caps will be in place, account for 37%, officials said at the time. In total, the caps are projected to decrease the number of short-term rentals from 1,659 short-term to 1,290 between 2025 and 2030.
The rules also limit the number of annual bookings for short-term rentals to 35.
Some exceptions exist, such as an exemption to the license cap for full-time county residents who work more than 30 hours per week in the county or who’ve retired and have a history of working in the county for at least 10 to 15 years. Licenses will also now be transferable between parents and children, spouses or domestic partners, siblings, or grandparents and grandchildren.
Commissioners said the rules were designed to mitigate short-term rental properties’ impact on housing while ensuring homeowners can still participate in the local economy.
“We’ve heard from so many people over the course of this conversation just how much their livelihood depends on short-term rentals,” said Commissioner Tamara Pogue shortly before voting for regulations on Feb. 15. “We’ve also heard over the course of this conversation just how many people’s livelihoods are threatened by short-term rentals.”
These properties remain “a supplemental source of income for homeowners, many of whom rely on that income to pay for their mortgages or for other basic needs,” the lawsuit states.
The complaint goes on to list multiple plaintiffs who will lose tens of thousands of dollars and will not be able to pay their mortgages due to the regulations.
The lawsuit also states the license cap exception for full-time residents creates a “discriminatory treatment of out-of-state residents and, thus, is not legitimate.”
Read the full lawsuit