Hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts used to be the only options for a place to stay when traveling ̶ that is, until short-term rental sites, like Vrbo and Airbnb, popped up on the internet. This new way of renting someone’s house or condo for a vacation or business trip expanded people’s traveling horizons, but it also created numerous legal conundrums for local municipalities and would-be rental hosts.
Our client Dennis* purchased a multi-million-dollar home in Jefferson County as a short-term rental (STR) investment. Dennis’ neighbors were not exactly thrilled about the idea of having an STR in their community, and the county denied the application. But, as the old adage goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
*Facts are those of an actual Robinson & Henry case. We used a pseudonym for our clients.
Jefferson County officials surprised Dennis and his daughter Jenna* when they rejected the STR license application.
“We met all of the qualifications as outlined by the county, so we didn’t think there would be reason for denial,” Jenna said.
Despite the denial, Jenna and her dad weren’t ready to throw in the towel. However, before they made their next move, they wanted to know their legal options and to be as prepared as possible.
“We started interviewing firms and had a Zoom meeting with Joe Novak,” Jenna said. “He stood out from the others.”
R&H Partner and Litigation Attorney Joe Novak has helped other clients appeal similar city and county administrative decisions, so he was optimistic he could help Dennis and Jenna.
“I felt like his confidence was tempered with a genuine concern for his clients which ended up being the exact right match for us,” Jenna said.
The Issue to Resolve
Unlike some civil cases, this one had one goal: get a short-term rental license.
The question now for Joe and his client became: which legal route would carry them to success?
The Client’s Legal Options
Appeal the Denial
Individuals who have their short-term rental applications denied have an opportunity to go through an administrative appeal. But from Joe’s experience, those appeals are rarely successful.
Reapply for a License
The other option was to reapply and be as well prepared as possible for the hearing.
Everyone agreed the latter was the best choice.
Preparing for the Administrative Hearing
Joe got busy learning the facts of the case and putting together a plan of action.
“This was an administrative proceeding, which means we only have one real chance,” he said.
Joe and the clients reviewed the previous administrative hearings and the board’s concerns. They also considered the neighbor’s objections to the STR license.
“In a situation like this, it is not helpful to incite the neighbors,” Joe said.
“Rather than engaging in an argument, [the clients] and I decided to preempt many of those concerns by addressing the issues and providing solutions,” he continued.
Additionally, Joe’s prior experiences were immensely helpful as he prepared Dennis and Jenna for the administrative hearing. He knew it was critical to work with the county’s attorneys prior to the hearing to resolve any possible concerns.
As the hearing drew closer, Jenna said she and her father felt ready.
“What I appreciated most about Joe was his willingness to partner with me on learning the details of the case,” Jenna said. “He carved out time to meet with me and reviewed details, and, over time, we both felt confident that we had explored every possible scenario that could be brought up at the meeting.”
Presenting the Case for a Short-Term Rental License
At the hearing, Joe presented the county with evidence that Dennis and Jenna had taken the necessary steps to ensure the property was as safe and neighbor-friendly as possible.
Joe introduced numerous expert reports, such as a fire mitigation plan. He also submitted photographs to corroborate the measures implemented by David and Jenna.
“It was so refreshing to go into the meeting knowing we had someone on our side who really cared about us and our future plans,” Jenna told the R&H Marketing Department.
Joe’s efforts to work with the opposition rather than against it proved successful. The county board approved Dennis’ short-term rental license with a brief probationary period.
At the end of the six-month probation, Dennis will return to the county board to confirm his STR license has had no violations.
Jenna credits the positive results to Joe’s meticulous preparation for the hearing.
“I truly believe that if we would have represented ourselves, we likely would have been denied again,” Jenna said. “[Joe’s] care for our victory was evident every step of the way.”
Parting Words from Attorney Joe Novak
“A good attorney is solutions-oriented and is willing to work through whatever reasonable means are necessary in order to obtain the desired results for the client.”
Our Civil Litigation Attorneys Can Help You With an SRT License
If a city or county board has rejected your permit request, whether it’s a construction permit, a short-term rental license, or something else, it’s time to talk with an attorney.
Our civil litigation attorneys have experience helping clients obtain licenses that once were denied. If you’re in this situation, call 303-688-0944 to begin your free case assessment.
*Past results afford no guarantee of future results; each matter is different and must be judged on its own merits. Facts are those of an actual Robinson & Henry litigation case. We used a pseudonym for our clients.