Maturity Arrives at Age 30!

shutterstock_213925810The balance of vacation rentals, residents and city oversight has recently been a hot topic. This battle is now in my own front yard.  The way I look at it … the new Rancho Mirage ordinance requiring a responsible individual of at least 30 years old, sign for the property and be present throughout the rental period, has put my company and every Rancho Mirage vacation rental owner who takes short term renters, in the position of deciding between three bad choices; break an age discrimination law, break the city ordinance or stop taking short term rentals entirely.

Here is a scary scenario:  A 29 year old attorney, golf pro, fireman, or any responsible, professional individual who is aware of their legal rights, is turned down by a vacation rental owner because of age.  How much does a discrimination law suit cost the owner?  Will the city step in and take responsibility?

 

The following article written by Xochitl Peña, appeared in the Desert Sun newspaper and on the Desert Sun website, November 21, 2014.

Judge dismisses Rancho Mirage vacation rental lawsuit

A Riverside County Superior Court judge has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit that challenged Rancho Mirage’s vacation rental ordinance requiring at least one person in the home be 30 years old.

The battle might not be over though: The attorney for Brian C. Harrison, the owner of a Rancho Mirage vacation rental who filed the Sept. 2 lawsuit, said the case will be appealed.

“It doesn’t make sense if you think about it, that you can outlaw arbitrarily a class of individuals — adult individuals — purely because of their age,” said Ken Gregory, the attorney representing Harrison.

The case was dismissed earlier this week.

City Attorney Steve Quintanilla noted that the judge’s decision came early in the legal process, before a formal hearing that would have allowed both sides to point out their respective arguments on the case.

“The judge essentially agreed with our argument that the complaint lacked any legal merit to warrant a formal hearing,” he said.

Vacation rentals have increasingly been a hot topic across the Coachella Valley this year, with Palm Springs, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage all hashing out new ordinances that strive to balance a homeowner’s right to rent while appeasing neighbors who complain about party homes.

In Rancho Mirage, the council members on July 31 approved changes to the city’s short-term rental ordinance that require any group of vacationers include a “responsible person” who is at least 30 years old.

The person is responsible for ensuring everyone in the house follows the law. The minimum age for that requirement was previously 21 years old.

Quintanilla said the ordinance does not require all occupants be older than 30 years. It just means one person is in charge, and subject to fines if laws are broken.

The ordinance also requires that the “responsible person” execute a “formal acknowledgment” that shows they are in charge and are held liable for the rental.

In his lawsuit, Harrison argued argued that the “formal acknowledgment” is essentially a contract.

Gregory, his attorney, said the lawsuit was about more than “age discrimination.” He said it also focuses on conflicting laws a homeowner would face enforcing the city ordinance.

In order to adhere to the city ordinance, Gregory argued that homeowners would in essence be breaking state civil rights law, as the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits a business from discrimination in the rental of a home based on age.

“So they are either violating the act or the ordinance,” Gregory told The Desert Sun.

According to the lawsuit, Harrison said he would face a financial loss of $20,000 a year in rental income because of the restriction.

“I would suffer irreparable injury as I rely on the income from the short-term vacation rental … to pay my mortgage on the property,” Harrison said in the court document.

Quintanilla said the court dismissed the challenge “on grounds that the (Unruh) act does not apply to a city when a city is acting in its legislative capacity,” such as establishing policy.

He said the city is ready to fight any appeal.

“I’m confident that, if they do appeal, we will prevail. There was no legal merit to the case,” Quintanilla said.

In Palm Springs, council in February approved various changes, including increasing the minimum age to rent a home from 18 years to 25 years, after residents there began to complain about loud and disruptive rental homes.

In Indian Wells, council members are looking to give police more enforcement tools and invoke stiffer fines after residents began complaining about party homes. Residents there have threatened to sue the city if vacation rentals of less than 30 days are allowed.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: