Short-term rental

This short-term rental at the Villas at Bishops Lodge, managed by Kokopelli Property Management, has had no guests since March.

Rules for vacation rentals in New Mexico have pingponged since the governor started issuing public health orders in March.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s most recent directive on lodging during the COVID-19 pandemic, issued last week, says that “short-term vacation rentals shall limit guests to New Mexico residents only.”

That’s actually a loosening of restrictions.

From April 11 to May 14, short-term rental owners could only provide housing to out-of-state health care professionals working in New Mexico.

As the state slowly reopens business operations and travelers from neighboring states become increasingly eager to visit Santa Fe, rental owners decry rules they say are forcing them to remain closed while hotels and other lodgers reopen or continue serving a limited number of guests.

“There is a discriminatory policy going on,” said Richard Woodruff, co-owner of Adobe Casitas Vacation Rentals.

Patrick Tolen, general manager of Kokopelli Property Management, which oversees vacation rentals for 64 property owners, said the firm didn’t get any requests for temporary housing for health care workers.

“There was not any need for health care workers who came from out of state,” Tolen said.

Kokopelli didn’t get requests from any other prospective short-term renters, either.

Amid shutdowns in the state and across the nation, vacation-rental owners in Santa Fe have been flooded with cancellations. With the city’s major art markets and other cultural draws, such as the Santa Fe Opera, canceling events scheduled throughout the summer, the local short-term rental industry, which generates up to $50 million a year through some 1,400 properties, has taken a big hit.

Initially, the governor’s public health order lumped vacation rentals in with “other places of lodging” and limited operations to 50 percent of capacity. Hotels are now limited to 25 percent of capacity.

But they aren’t prohibited from serving out-of-state visitors.

“We just find we have been overlooked or aggressively singled out. Hotels can operate at some capacity, but we can’t,” Woodruff said. “The rules have become more onerous. We can’t even accept out-of-state health care workers anymore.”

Woodruff and Adobe Casitas co-owner Leslie Drobbin manage 18 short-term rentals, including one he owns and two that Drobbin owns.

Not a single health care worker booked at Adobe Casitas. Neither has a New Mexico resident.

In a normal year, Woodruff said, only about three of the 500 to 600 parties that book at Adobe Casitas are New Mexico residents.

Kokopelli also doesn’t see many requests for New Mexico renters.

“Right now, there is not much of a market,” Tolen said.

Matt Landau, founder of VRMB, a New Orleans-based vacation rental marketing firm, said in an email he hadn’t seen a similar rule restricting rentals to in-state guests.

“It also seems to border on discrimination,” Landau said.

Eric Fullerton, director of marketing at AirDNA, a Denver company that analyzes data on short-term rentals, noted a rule in Florida that took effect Tuesday, when the governor of that state allowed vacation rentals to reopen — but prohibited guests from New York.

“Florida … clearly is doing something similar,” Fullerton wrote.

Enforcing New Mexico’s stringent short-term rental rules could be a whole other matter.

While it’s unlikely state or local law enforcement agencies will police rentals to ensure guests aren’t from out of state, the city’s tourism chief said he believes neighbors will “self-enforce” the rules.

“If you see an out-of-state car, you call it in, I guess. That’s the only way to enforce it, I would think,” said Randy Randall, executive director of Tourism Santa Fe, the city convention and visitors bureau.

Kokopelli and Adobe Casitas have had no guests since mid- to late March. But they began to get calls and emails in early May from people itching to get back on the road in the summer.

“In the last four days, I got six bookings for mid-June,” Tolen said. “I just hope things get lifted up.”

Adobe Casitas has received a flurry of calls from Denver; Boulder, Colo.; Phoenix; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Dallas, Woodruff said, but he has had to turn them all down due to the restrictions.

“In the first week of May, we got at least 30 or 40 calls from people who want to be here,” Woodruff said. “All were driving. Not a single one was considering flying.”

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(16) comments

Richard Woodruff

Although I do understand the sentiments of some of the comments above, it must firstly be noted that Santa Fe is a destination city - one of the top in the entire US. The Santa Fe economy depends on that. It is not only New Mexico residents that visit Santa Fe, actually the vast majority come from out of state and other countries. Our art market (3rd largest in the US) is not supported by New Mexicans but rather by out of state buyers. What would Santa Fe's economy be without the revenues brought to our galleries, restaurants, museums, hotels and other attractions if out of state residents no longer felt welcome to visit. Regarding vacation rental properties, they are complimentary to our hotels and not necessarily pure competition. A different type of visitor chooses to remain in a home rather than a hotel. These visitors tend to stay 5 days or more and our mostly families with children. Regarding vacations rentals in particular - they are regulated quite robustly by the City of Santa Fe. There are annual licensing fees and to obtain a permit each vacation rental is required to have a fire inspection as well as a building inspection. Typically the homes that are offered for rent are maintained to a higher standard than those that are merely second homes and visited only periodically. This helps improve the character of our neighborhoods rather than seeing properties left in disrepair. Although I can go on about the economic benefits of vacation rentals, suffice to say that just the vacation rentals in Santa Fe contribute approximately $3.7 million in Gross Receipt Taxes and $2.1 million in Santa Fe Lodgers Tax each year.

Other communities in New Mexico, as well as throughout the US, also benefit as there are many that do not have hotels invested in their communities and short term rental homes are the only option. I am proud of being a resident and business owner in Santa Fe and I relish the opportunity to welcome guests from the rest of the US and the world. We all should be so welcoming!

Connie Lopez

And I think all SFe short-term rentals should be afforded to low-income Santa Fe residents, not out-of-state residents. Maybe even homeless shelters may benefit from these homes.

Stefanie Beninato

If what I see on the streets where STR are located no one is paying any attention to the governor's orders. There are plenty of cars--many with CA, TX, AZ and CO plates. Also an art gallery is holding a garage sale in its very small parking lotselling clothing--not art. There were at least 8 people there--none observing social distancing--yes all but one had a mask on.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Yes, more unequal treatment and protection under law, a violation of the 14th Amendment. Why doesn't someone sue this tiny tyrant?

Bubbles Galore

Cry me a river for the rentier class

Jeff Clark

Good, maybe our neighborhoods will no longer be treated as commercial zones.

Janet Lucks

The whole neighborhood of West San Francisco is mostly short-term rentals....charming little homes where many Santafeans could live and walk to work....

Robert Bartlett

Liberal logic. Ban out of state visitors. Demand funding from the federal government (other state taxpayers).

Bubbles Galore

Hey Einstein, it's conservative logic too. Plenty of Bible belt red states adopting the same measures, and a GOP governor was one of the first to shut down his state to "flatten the curve"

Janet Lucks

Understand and appreciate the frustration all of us are expirencing that being said so many of these short term rental owners only bought these properties as investments and couldn't afford them otherwise... Many rarely come to SF could care less about many of the issues that our community is faced with. Yes they employ domestic help and hopefully pay lodgers tax etc but at what cost to our community.... Many of the neighboring states that want to visit have much higher numbers of covid and do not abide by their own state guidelines let alone consider ours....Santa Feans would be well served to think about their fellow residents with higher regard and try to leave politics out of it....

Phyllis Roybal

My thoughts exactly! Thank you!

Kathy Fish

As the state slowly reopens business operations and travelers from neighboring states become increasingly eager to visit Santa Fe, rental owners decry rules they say are forcing them to remain closed while hotels and other lodgers reopen or continue serving a limited number of guests.

“There is a discriminatory policy going on,” said Richard Woodruff, co-owner of Adobe Casitas Vacation Rentals.

Discrimination? I don't think so. Hotels must pay for licensing and inspections. They must abide by certain standards set forth by the state and the industry. Short term rentals, on the other hand, have long skirted these regulations and enjoyed free reign - part of what's made them so competitive to hotels. Let's see this for what it is: A chance for hotels to recoup some of the losses unregulated short term rentals have created for a decade now.

And while we're at it - instead of building back-to-back "affordable housing" by the highway, let's put some of these short-terms to better use. House New Mexicans over out-of-state tourists! Let's put our own first.

Janet Lucks

Exactly....wish the local hotels that are open would consider packages with breakfast vouchers included at local restaurants or incentives for other meals....

Connie Lopez

'“The rules have become more onerous. We can’t even accept out-of-state health care workers anymore.”' Huh? What out-of-state health care workers are you referring to? I mean Christus St. Vincent recently laid off nurses, so why would there be an influx of [external] health care workers? Common sense, people. I thought City of Santa Fe wanted local owners convert short-term rentals to low-income rental housing for NM residents? Now that makes more sense and is more philanthropic.

Connie Lopez

Way to go MLG. Keep NM SAFE! Limit all out-of-state guests as most come to NM from GOP states with limited COVID-19 controls. I honestly hope MLG will eventually be featured in Time Magazine person of the year. Or VP . . . hmm? Connie Lopez-Lucero

Phyllis Roybal

In totally agree. Thank you!

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