County OKs VHR fire inspections
Fire inspectors will take over safety inspections of vacation home rentals starting July 1 after Douglas County commissioners approved revisions to the fire code on Thursday.
The revision includes requiring sprinklers for new homes under 5,000 square feet in more remote portions of the East Fork Township.
Deputy District Attorney Mary Anne Martin said the code change will transfer responsibility for inspections from Douglas County Community Development to the Tahoe-Douglas Fire District.
Vacation rentals are only allowed in the Tahoe Township with a permit. They are not allowed in the East Fork Township, though a task force has been formed to explore their expansion.
The inspection is one of the requirements for obtaining a permit.
Martin said there is no specific requirement vacation rentals have sprinklers.
“A VHR would be treated the same as my residence or your residence,” she said. “The inspections would be in lieu of, not in addition, to the inspections done by Community Development.”
Tahoe Douglas Fire Marshal Eric Guevin said that the average VHR occupancy is 10.3 people, with the largest vacation rentals containing 26 people.
There are 484 registered vacation rentals in the district. Guevin said there are 639 active rentals in the district, so there are more than 100 that have yet to obtain permits.
Guevin said an unmaintained wood stove set fire to a vacation home rental that actually burned down in Zephyr Cove recently.
Sierra Nevada Realtors President Leslie Cain said her group has concerns about requiring the life-safety inspections.
“Realtors believe homeowners have the right to rent, sell, occupy or leave empty their homes,” she said. “Limiting a homeowners’ property use in any way is taking away their rights.”
Retired East Fork Fire Investigator Terry Taylor, who is now an unpaid lobbyist for two fire associations, said vacation rentals are sometimes ill equipped to be rented out.
“They are not hotel rooms, they are houses,” he said. “When you rent your house out to somebody, it darn well better be safe.”
County commissioners also approved adopting the International Wildland Urban Interface Code in Tahoe Township.
Guevin said the same code is expected to be presented for East Fork Township in the future.
On Tuesday, Douglas County planning commissioners are scheduled to hear a request for a bed and breakfast at 1755 Foothill Road.
Under county ordinance, the owner of a bed and breakfast must reside on the property while it’s being rented.
Planning commissioners meet 1 p.m. in the historic Douglas County Courthouse, 1616 Eighth St., Minden.