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Siskiyou could see influx of TOT revenue from short term rentals with new agreement

Kelsey Shelton
Mount Shasta Herald
The only thing cheaper than a vacation rental is staying with a friend or family member. It's called "couch surfing,"

As the online short term rental business booms in Siskiyou County and across the U.S. - even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic - Siskiyou County has entered into an agreement with one of the industry's largest companies, HomeAway.com, Inc. to collect Transient Occupancy Taxes.

“A lot of people feel more comfortable now renting homes that allow distancing as opposed to hotels," said Siskiyou County Treasurer-Tax Collector Wayne Hammar, who explained the new agreement to the board of supervisors at their Oct. 20 meeting.

HomeAway, based in Delaware, operates an internet based platform which allows short term rental operators to advertise their properties through a variety of brands and sites, such as VRBO, and VacationRentals.com.

Siskiyou County is the first to have this specific agreement with HomeAway, Hammar said. The county currently hosts 61 rental listings that could provide TOT and Hammar estimates the agreement will bring an influx of $78,000 in TOT each year to the county's General Fund, which can be used at the board's discretion.

In 2017 the county entered a similar agreement with Airbnb for rental properties in unincorporated areas. While Hammar estimated the agreement would mean an influx of $50,000 to $80,000 in TOT revenue, the impact was much higher: $120,000.

“This is my dream - capturing unfound revenues," said District 4 Supervisor Lisa Nixon  during the Oct. 20 meeting. Nixon went on to thank Hammar for his “creative work” on the agreement. 

“These platforms realized that they weren’t breaking the law, but they weren’t following county rules,” Hammar said in a separate interview. “Every little bit of money we rightfully deserve. If hotels and professional renters are paying, online rentals should be doing that too,” said Hammar.

A long, wooden boardwalk leads to a vacation house rental at a beach.

Now that the agreement is in place, the county can immediately begin collecting TOT and other tourism/business taxes related to short term rentals.

Incorporated cities, such as Yreka, Mount Shasta, and Weed obtain their TOT funds from campgrounds, hotels and motels, resorts, and professional rental properties, unless an agreement has been made with a renting entity.

Hammar went on to note that this year, campgrounds in the county also did well in garnering TOT funds.

Hammar noted that if incorporated areas with a large online rental platform wish to see the agreement and discuss options, he would be happy to assist them the best he can.

“I’ve spoken with other cities, and I believe it would be in their benefit,” said Hammar. “It’s only fair, everyone should get the dollars they deserve, and it’s a fairness issue.”