Are VHRs a business?

Sometimes the only way to find out if something has a hole in it, is to fill it and see if there are any leaks.

After last week’s approval of the revised vacation home rental ordinance by county commissioners that’s the stage we’re at to bring some order to the home vacation rental market.

Just the last 10 months have seen several questions raised about how the ordinance will be applied in practice.

People have been renting Lake Tahoe homes to vacationers for decades. The issue came to a head with the advent of online rental brokers in the last decade.

Tax Day is on Monday, which means that people across Douglas County are determining how to declare their income, including that from vacation home rentals.

That begs the question of whether a vacation home rental is actually a business, or what that means in a world where people spend more time than ever working from home.

Every month, The Record-Courier receives a list of businesses that file with the county. 

The county doesn’t have a business license, so the fictitious firm names are as close as we get to a running tally of county businesses.

That list has many traditional businesses, but just as many, or more, with addresses out of people’s homes. 

Most of those businesses don’t attract a lot of attention to themselves. They’re essentially a home office with a couple of clients who may or may not ever set foot on the property.

While lots of folks wear cowboy hats here, Douglas County’s roots are more mercantile. Genoa was founded to serve travelers to the California goldfields and then to the Comstock Lode. Gardnerville was on the road to the gold strike in Bodie. 

We’re loath to regulate business unless there’s a very good reason to do so. The four-year struggle to get a vacation home rental ordinance passed is a barometer of the sort of effort required to do any serious regulation. It required the expansion of an entire department, including enforcement, administration and even an attorney.

That’s a pretty good argument against tackling new business regulation unless there’s a real need.



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