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Permit Sonoma launches 24/7 vacation rental complaint hotline

By Melissa Dowling

Permit Sonoma recently launched a new vacation rental complaint hotline to assist neighbors in reporting vacation rentals that break the rules surrounding operation of home rentals for periods less than 30 days.

To date, the county has set numerous rules on the books without a means to enforce them. The new hotline will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to improve the experience for neighbors and others who seek to report vacation rental ordinance violations.

Vacation rentals have requirements of operation, defined by Sonoma County code, which address potential nuisance issues. Mandatory quiet hours, limits on the number of guests and number of parked cars, rules on fire pit size and location, and how long garbage cans can be left by the curb before and after trash pickup day are some examples of regulation violations that can be reported with the new hotline.

The new process requires that concerned neighbors first contact the property manager by looking up the property permit at permitsonoma.org. If the designated property manager does not resolve the issue within one hour, or within 30 minutes during quiet time (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.), a complaint may be submitted by calling the vacation rental hotline at (707) 875-6619.

Vacation rentals are defined as the rental of a private residence for periods of 30 days or less. Vacation rentals do not include bed-andbreakfast inns or hosted rentals permitted in accordance with the Sonoma County code for B& Bs and hosted rentals, or occasional home exchanges that are not otherwise subject to the county’s transient occupancy tax.

Permit Sonoma launched the hotline to make reporting a violation of the county’s Vacation Rental Ordinance easier. If a property manager doesn’t respond within the appropriate time limit, neighbors can call the hotline and initialize a complaint. Code enforcement staff will investigate the violation.

According to Bradley Dunn, Permit Sonoma’s policy manager, “If it is after hours and it is a significant safety or criminal event, the [Sonoma County] Sheriff will be notified. If it is a non-urgent matter, Permit Sonoma enforcement staff will follow up the next business day.”

Repeated and unresolved violations can result in a $500 fine or revocation of the vacation rental permit. While complaints can be submitted anonymously, if a complainant chooses to give personal information, Permit Sonoma will keep it confidential.

“We have received 10 calls so far,” Dunn reported. “Of those calls, two were about properties that were not vacation rentals, four calls were for information, and there were four vacation rental complaints.”

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved updates to the Vacation Rental Ordinance on Aug. 2, including a prohibition on new vacation rentals in R1-zoned, low-density residential areas; allowing caps on the number of vacation rentals in areas of concentration; and establishing restrictions on corporate ownership of vacation rentals in Sonoma County. The board directed Permit Sonoma staff to return with a new business license program to further regulate vacation rentals.

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