A new emergency order relaxes requirements for rental licenses to house people displaced by the Dec. 30 fires and winds. Credit: John Herrick

Note: This story was updated at 12:58 p.m. on Jan. 14 with addition information from the city.

Boulder residents seeking to rent out properties to people displaced by the Marshall Fire will have to jump through fewer hoops to get a new rental license. 

An emergency order signed by City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde on Thursday loosened requirements for obtaining a rental license. The new terms apply to residents who want to lease out spaces to people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the wildfires and strong winds on Dec. 30. 

The Marshall Fire destroyed more than a thousand homes. Some of the homes remaining were contaminated with ash and smoke, generating air and water quality concerns among residents. 

The order is designed to address a “known shortage of available housing in Boulder and the surrounding communities,” Rivera-Vandermyde wrote in the order.  

“This order is necessary to prevent displacement or possible homelessness of persons by a disaster emergency,” she added.

How to get a rental license under the new terms

Residents seeking a license under the relaxed licensing terms must provide an affidavit that the property will house someone displaced by the fires or winds. 

To obtain a license, the property must pass an inspection for certain conditions in the city’s Property Maintenance Code, which sets standards for light, ventilation, heating, sanitation and fire safety, according to the city’s rental licensing handbook

People seeking the exemptions must apply for a rental license by Feb. 28. 

Cate Stanek, a spokesperson for the city, said after submitting the application, email RentalHousingLicensing@bouldercolorado.gov to let city staff know and to request an exemption under the order. Stanek said city staff will follow up with next steps. She said the city will have a streamlined process for exemptions in the next week.

The order waives rental license fees and the rental license excise tax for new licenses approved under the order. The city is also waiving rental license application fees, according to David Gehr, the interim director of the city’s Planning and Development Services Department.

The order also waives outdoor lighting and energy efficiency requirements and it gives the city manager and planner discretion over what other regulations to waive. 

Questions remain on occupancy limits and ADUs

The order does not mention regulations related to limits on the number of unrelated people who can live together or those related to the creation of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). 

Gehr said the city does not plan to change its ADU regulations as part of the fire response. He said the Boulder City Council may consider amending the regulations over the next year.

“The people who lost their homes need a quick response. And I think the ADU stuff is more long-term policy,” Gehr said.

Rivera-Vandermyde has said the city is not actively enforcing its occupancy limits. Before the fire, city officials said the city dialed down occupancy enforcement, in part due to staffing shortages. 

“And so individuals providing temporary shelter for evacuees should  not be concerned at this time,” she said during a city council meeting on Jan. 4. “And we actually thank you for your ability to take folks in as we move forward.” 

Rivera-Vandermyde said the city has also lifted the income restrictions for people displaced by the fire to rent out permanently affordable rental units for up to 12 months. 

The rental license exemptions under the order may not be issued for rental properties with a current long-term rental license or a long-term license set to expire within 90 days, according to the order. 

The exemptions expire on March 15, 2025.

John Herrick

John Herrick reports on housing, climate, health and local government for Boulder Reporting Lab. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for VTDigger.org. He is interested in stories about people, power and fairness.