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Three Keys to Efficient Short-Term Rental Enforcement

If you’ve been tasked to enforce a short-term rental (STR) program, these three quick tips — shared by Pete Roque, code enforcement director at 4 Leaf, Inc. and former code enforcement officer — will set you up for success. It took the City of Garden Grove several years (and countless headaches) to get a successful enforcement program set up. Pete created these tips to help you avoid some of the pitfalls he encountered on the road to efficient STR enforcement.

Tip #1: Know the code in your area

To effectively enforce STR code compliance, you must first know the code in your community. STR regulations are localized, which means the rules that govern them vary from place to place. The first step is to familiarize yourself with how STRs are regulated in your jurisdiction. Garden Grove uses what is called a permissive scheme, which prohibits uses that aren’t expressly permitted in its ordinance. Since STRs weren’t listed in the city’s ordinance, they aren’t allowed. The city considered other permitting systems like transient operating taxing (TOT), business licensing, and even a conditional allowance, but ultimately settled on a permissive scheme — which best suited Garden Grove’s goals as a community at the time. Every jurisdiction should choose the enforcement mechanism that’s right for it and evolve as its community does.

At first Garden Grove painstakingly hunted for STRs manually, which proved to be a time-consuming, labor-intensive, inefficient process. Most of the online STR platforms actively work to hide the location of their listings, making it nearly impossible to track. To remedy this, Garden Grove teamed up with Granicus to locate listings on their behalf. Granicus was able to indicate which rentals were compliant and which weren’t — shedding light on the large number of hosts who were operating illegally.

Tip #2: Educate

Another key to successful STR enforcement is education. Most hosts want to be compliant but are unclear about how to go about it. The more you educate stakeholders like hosts, council members, and residents, the more likely you are to see higher STR compliance rates within your community. Summit County, CO went a step further by sending targeted emails to subscribed residents who indicated an interest in STR related information. Those residents get bite sized, digestible updates about new regulations, renewals, and other messaging to improve compliance and promote overall STR education. Garden Grove sent several informal letters to notify hosts of enforcement changes and penalties. The city’s process begins with warnings before moving on to fines for repeat offenders. Garden Grove posts information on its website, makes announcements at city council meetings, and even uses door hangers to spread the word.

Tip #3: Be consistent

As you go about enforcing the STR code in your jurisdiction, be consistent. Don’t be swayed by any sob stories or excuses from property owners. Be fair, objective, equitable, and treat all operators the same. Record evidence of incompliance prudently — or work with a trusted partner to collect evidence on your behalf. Ultimately, as a code enforcement officer, it’s your responsibility to manage those investigations to make sure the information is correct, complete, and adequately communicated to the property owner.


Efficient enforcement is important, not only to achieve the desired impact of STR regulations, but also to maintain public confidence and trust in a local government’s authority. Use these tips to get started and be sure to make time — perhaps annually — to assess the success of the current regulations and enforcement measures to make modifications as needed.

For a more in-depth explanation of these tips, download our free webinar: 3 Tips in 15 Minutes, Essentials for Effective Short-Term Rental Enforcement where Pete Roque expounds on these tips in more detail.