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Just about everything goes in Sin City, but are vacation rentals legal in Las Vegas? Believe it or not, dropping money on fancy vacation homes is one vice that can’t be quenched in the desert oasis of mischief. Vacation rentals here may be illegal but there are ways for hosts and top vacation rental sites to get around these restrictions. Also, there are some key distinctions surrounding the city limits of Vegas that play a huge role. We explore the laws in place below:
Las Vegas versus Unincorporated Land
One of the main points of confusion when it comes to the legality of vacation rentals in the Las Vegas area is that the whole of Las Vegas is a part of Clark County Nevada. However, many of the things we associate, as “Vegas” are not actually a part of the city of Las Vegas. Instead, they are a part of Unincorporated Clark County. The unincorporated land essentially splits Las Vegas right down the middle, making a north and south portion of the city. In the middle, the unincorporated piece is where visitors find the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and the Las Vegas Convention Center. This area is also often called Paradise or Winchester.
So, the majority of well-known tourist attractions are not in Las Vegas but actually in Paradise. Not many people know this though because Paradise is unincorporated and all of the addresses for business and residences still have a default Las Vegas zip code. This split happened in 1950 to help alleviate Vegas’s growing debt by expanding the town’s tax base. This also means The Strip, and the residents in the area, get government services from the county and not the city.
What Laws Are in Place?
To be more specific with our statement that vacation rentals are illegal in Las Vegas, short-term vacation rentals are illegal on unincorporated Clark County land. Including the unincorporated piece that includes The Strip and the area around The Strip, the epicenter of life, culture, and travel in Vegas.
The law defines a short-term rental as any residential property that is rented for a duration of 30 days or less. Since 1998 Clark County has a law that forbids the rental of a property for 30 consecutive days or less in the unincorporated areas of Clark County.
Ways to Rent Your Property
A year after the original law was enacted though, a second law went into effect. This municipal code states that any “transient lodging” business must apply and acquire a license to operate the said business. This license costs $300 per year and does not include the short-term rental tax issued by the county.
While this may seem like a bummer for any hopes of renting a property, it actually does open a gateway to potentially finding and/or listing a property within the Paradise area. This is important, as all the attractions Las Vegas is known for are located in this part of town, so most renters are not going to be looking as often within the city limits of actual Las Vegas.
Some 10,000 properties are currently listed in Las Vegas. According to data used by Clark County from 2015 to 2017, as many as 4,000 properties listed could have been illegal operations. Although, the county admitted this is only an estimate because their data did not distinguish between Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County.
Why is There a Vacation Rental Crackdown?
There are many reasons that Clark County and Las Vegas may have felt the need to crack down on vacation rentals in the area around the Las Vegas Strip. One reason is business. The Strip is, more than anything, a street of hotels. Everything about Las Vegas begins with the idea that people arrive, stay in a hotel, play in the hotel’s casino, admire other hotels, and spend more money there as well. A thriving vacation rental market endangers the backbone of the city. That backbone of Las Vegas is tourism, as a city built in a barren desert does not have many other ways to make money.
There is also a concern for some 900,000 permanent residents in the area. The Strip is rowdy. And many people come to Las Vegas with the goal of partying to great excess. The county and city would like to keep that activity contained to the areas around the Strip and Fremont Street. If vacation rentals were to be completely legalized the fear is that the hustle and bustle are going to spill into otherwise calm neighborhoods; causing loud music, trash, and potentially lots of traffic in residential areas.
Vacation rentals also drive general rental prices skyward. Folks who live in Las Vegas by renting rather than owning property would experience an increase in rent, making the city harder to live in.
Penalties for Vacation Rentals
Since these laws are upwards of 20 years old, the regulations are not new. What is new is the success of sites like Airbnb. Subsequently, the more recent crackdown is being seen through penalties and investigations. In 2017, Clark County saw a 640% increase in the number of properties being investigated for violating the short term rental ordinance. Properties found guilty are charged $1,000 per day for every day that they are out of compliance. There is even a hotline for citizens to report homes in their neighborhood that they believe are operating as an illegal short-term vacation rental.
A look through any vacation rental site, whether Airbnb, AllTheRooms, or HomeAway, will show that there are still plenty of options. It is unlikely that all of these are perfectly legal but for visitors to Las Vegas, it is unlikely that they experience any disruption by renting a vacation home. All penalties are directed towards property owners, not those that stay there. It is also very unlikely that any property under investigation would continue to rent and be subject to immediate shutdown.