Denver Airbnb hosts come together after short-term rental felony arrests

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DENVER — Since June, four people have been arrested for allegedly violating Denver’s short-term rental codes.

With the threat of felony charges causing a shake-up in the short-term rental industry, hosts are coming together to turn the negative narrative around with a first-of-its-kind event: a good neighbor summit.

Denver was an overnight destination for almost 20 million visitors in 2017. It’s the capital of a state with a nearly $20 billion tourism industry, but many of the city’s residents are less interested in becoming Airbnb hosts.

“We saw the number of Airbnbs in the Denver area dip about 25 percent immediately,” real estate educator Sabrina Calnan said of the arrests.

“It’s because hosts are scared of what’s going on,” Airbnb host Mike Socha said.

In the past six months, four people have faced felony charges for allegedly making false statements on forms about their rental properties.

Denver code says people can’t rent out a home that’s not their primary residence, a rule former councilwoman Mary Beth Susman was a part of creating.

“That protects us from losing affordable housing,” Susman said.

Airbnb hosts hope the code and felony arrests have also weeded out the bad eggs in the business.

“Hosting Airbnb is a real peacemaking activity,” Denver’s most experienced host Jill Bishop said, adding, “I’ve had guests from — last time I counted — 36 different countries.”

“We started hosting in our home — one room. We saved enough money to build our dream house because of Airbnb,” Socha said.

To better grow the rental industry, hosts are focused on educating one another about the laws and conducting business with the community in mind.

“Anything to help the reputation for being a good neighbor and being a good thing for the community, I’m all in for,” Bishop said.

Susman tells FOX31 she’s heard talks about future regulations for limiting the amount of days a host could rent in Denver. She says she believes that would be unenforceable.

Nicole Fierro wrote this report.

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