Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) is a 13% tax that is paid by the guest to the operator of the transient facility at the time the rent is paid. The Town of Mammoth Lakes is responsible for the collection of transient occupancy taxes and has a team dedicated to providing effective TOT enforcement and revenue collection services. It is basically a pass-through tax paid by the guest and passed on to the Town.
TOT makes up approximately 60% of the Mammoth Lakes General Fund. The monies fund services such as snow removal, recreational programming and road maintenance.
There has been a lot of press in the last year about the TOT. Keep in mind the full-time resident population of Mammoth Lakes is around 8,200 and we have 30,000 – 60,000 visitors over peak periods. A few simple calculations and it is easy to see why TOT is so important. The major challenge over the years has been enforcement. TOT existed and although the property management companies complied, many of the VRBO (vacation rental by owner) did not. Quite frankly most people knew it was illegal to not remit the TOT to the town but there were no consequences for not complying.
To make matters confusing, there are some areas of town where transient rentals are not allowed. Most of these are single-family homes in residential neighborhoods. Again, with no consequences for not complying with the zoning requirements there is illegal activity.
In 2012, city officials along with Town Council, implemented a few things to help the situation. The team was formed to educate, enforce and collect TOT. Informational articles and advertisements were placed in the local papers, letters were mailed to homeowners, a hotline for questions and reporting illegal activity put in place, and informational meetings were held in the community. In addition, a new local disclosure was implemented for use by real estate agents to inform property buyers of the TOT and the zoning of the property they are purchasing. A website was launched (https://gis.mono.ca.gov/tot) where after entering the property address, the zoning information detailing whether transient rentals are allowed is displayed.
Additional information (including the full ordinance) can be viewed at http://www.ci.mammoth-lakes.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=201.