Vacation rental property owners get reprieve from permit increase

by Marianne Gasaway

Owners of vacation rental properties in Clear Lake have received a reprieve from a substantial increase in city permit fees.  In fact, the City of Clear Lake announced this week there will be no city permit fees— at least for the time being.

At its Sept. 21 meeting, the Clear Lake City Council approved raising the yearly fee from $150 to $500 per year.  The increase was the result of the city contracting with Bergland & Cram, of Mason City, to provide property inspection services for vacation rentals. The change was to go into effect Oct. 1, much to the surprise and objection of those who provide short-term local rentals.

But within days of passing the ordinance, the City was informed that the Iowa Legislature passed a law earlier this year voiding local ordinances like the one Clear Lake has had in place since 2017.

City Administrator Scott Flory told the media the city didn’t realize language concerning short-term rentals was inserted into a tax bill.

“We were advised that there was a law that was passed and became effective July 1 that essentially eliminated cities, counties, local governments’ ability to require a permit or a license for these short-term rentals. So essentially the ordinance the city had… is now null and void, and likewise for the permit fee that was approved Monday night obviously is not relevant any longer.”

Flory said he is not sure why the state took action on this issue.  He expects cities and counties who had ordinances similar to the one in Clear Lake to discuss the issue with state legislators in the next session.

Currently, there are about 50 vacation rentals that are registered with the city,

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