Chelan County is stepping up efforts to enforce its short-term rental code.

The county's Community Development department has issued more than 721 short-term rental permits so far, but estimates there could be hundreds more now operating.

The Sheriff’s Office now has a three-officer staff in its Code Enforcement Unit, and County Communications Director Jill FitzSimmons says they'll be busy with illegal short-term rentals.

"They deal with more than just short-term rentals," said FitzSimmons. "They have to enforce all the building and land use regulations within the unincorporated areas of our county. So, this is not their main focus. It is a big focus, and I would suspect it would be for the next few months."

Later this year, the Short-Term Rental Division expects to seek an outside vendor to add more tools to enforce the county’s short-term rental codes.

After receiving a warning letter, people who continue to operate an unpermitted short-term rental will be fined $750 a day, as provided in Chelan County Code.

“We have already sent out some warning letters,” Kirsten Ryles, manager of Community Development’s Short-Term Rental Division.

“I highly recommend that any unpermitted, illegal short-term rentals stop – and give us a call. In some areas of the county where the short-term rental cap hasn’t been met, you may be able to make the July 29 deadline for filling out an application for operating in 2023.”

In July 2021, when Chelan County commissioners passed a new code establishing the operating standards of the county’s short-term rental industry, Community Development estimated as many as 1,300 short-term rentals were operating locally.

The county is encouraging people who wish to make a complaint to code enforcement to use the online form on the county’s website.

A Monday release from the county said forms should be filled out completely so officers have the details to respond and stressed that staff will not fill out the form for the public.

FitzSimmons says there's been strong interest from the public to have enforcement in place.

"This is a big issue for our county, especially coming off the past year, where the code was passed and we've gotten through those provisional permits," FitzSimmons said. "Where we're at now is kind of appropriate for out timeline. And people have been waiting for us to get to this point."

The county is looking to add a third-party contractor to allow for better monitoring of the industry, which would include a 24-hour complaint hotline and the reviewing of permitted operations versus unpermitted.

The 721 existing permits are for Tier 1 applicants and those operations that were grandfathered in and met short-term rental regulations.

The Short-Term Rental Division is currently reviewing all new Tier 2 and Tier 3 applications and has about 122 applications to review at this time.

Applications for new short-term rentals are only accepted until July 29.