Desert Trip provides Indio $1 million, new challenges

As Indio increasingly becomes a music fan’s dream vacation destination, officials are imploring residents who rent out their homes to tourists to register with the city.

The city has long required both long- and short-term renters to obtain a permit and business license from the city in order not only to keep track of renters but also to benefit from the 13 percent transient occupancy tax, also known as a bed tax. But as the number of festival tourists the city brings in continues to grow with the addition of the mega-rock concert Desert Trip and the approved 62,000-person expansion approved for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, so does the city’s insistence.

Indio is working with Airbnb, an online home rental website, to see if they can work together to identify unlicensed renters and collect the bed tax that would otherwise fall through the cracks.

The city has 219 short-term rental sites registered, according to Director of Finance Rob Rockwell, 136 of which were listed in the last year. An Airbnb search for homes available on May 26 alone yielded 309 results.

Unregistered houses provide no safety net for rowdy guests, Mayor Glenn Miller said, as there’s no homeowner contact information on record with the city in case of nuisance. The rentals are also generally in residential areas, where raucous tourists can disrupt the people who actually live in town

“Ninety percent (of tourists) come to relax and have a good time, but it’s those 10 percent that are partying and causing a problem,” Miller said. “For people living in neighborhoods, they’re not used to cars coming back at 2 a.m.”

There’s also a public safety component, Indio police Sgt. Dan Marshall says, especially during festival weekends.

Having a list of licensed rentals allows police to view a kind of map of where they’ll be needed during busy tourist times, even providing them with details such as house size and whether there’s a pool that can hint at whether the location could turn into a party pad. They can plan for excess traffic and, if needed, more enforcement measures.

“If we don’t know where a possible short-term rental is and there’s a party, it could stretch our resources to the point where we have to take someone from the venue to come deal with it,” he said. “If we don’t know where the rentals are, it affects our pre-planning.”

Coming into compliance with the city requires filing the paperwork to receive a business license and rental permit, which costs $60 initially and $20 every year to renew. Every quarter, they are required to report and submit the bed tax money they collected.

In 2015, the city collected about $170,000 in business license revenue.

People renting out their home without a license and permit are subject to a maximum $500 the first time, $750 fine the second time and $1,000 fine for every subsequent time after that.

For details on how to obtain a business license and rental permit, residents can visit indio.org or call City Hall at (760) 391-4000.