Have you been thinking of purchasing a Lake Tahoe Forest service cabin? Many folks are drawn to these cabins due to their rustic charm, forested settings and affordable prices. If so, it is important for folks to know that owning such a cabin does have restrictions. These cabins are intended for recreation use only and therefore cannot be a primary residence nor used as a vacation rental. They also cannot be used from which to run a business. Because the land is only leased, conventional loans are nearly impossible to acquire. Therefore most buyers pay cash or seek owner financing. Another important matter one should look into prior to purchasing a US Forest Service Recreational Cabin is in regards to the seasons in which one may or may not use them. Many have the water turned off and the roads are not plowed for access. If you are a hearty soul, you could always do as some of our “crazy” friends did and ski in, drag a sled of supplies, melt snow and hang up Solar Shower with the hot water in the bathroom. Ah well – back to the lives of us somewhat softer souls.
The Lake Tahoe Forest Service leases generally run in 20-year increments. If a property transfers ownership during that time, the new owner inherits the existing lease period. There is no guarantee that the leases will continue to be renewed however, many steps to notify cabin owners would have to take place first. Odds are unlikely that they won’t be renewed but again – not guaranteed.
Per Forest Service policies, the cabins must be re-appraised every 10 years. This appraisal is only in regards to the actual land, not the structure. Because these rates are most likely going up, when purchasing a Lake Tahoe forest service cabin, it is advised to have your REALTOR® ask for proof of payment in order to verify the actual amount of the bill for the current year and then ask about the 2015 fees which are soon to be implemented. On a positive note, the Forest Service Recreational Administrator tells us that all BMP;s were implemented during the recent appraisal process.
If you currently own one of these Lake Tahoe Forest Service Recreation Cabins and are thinking of selling, you will need to provide the following to your REALTOR® and/or future buyer.
A copy of the special use permit.
A copy of the operation and maintenance plan.
A copy of the most recent inspection completed by the Forest Service of the recreation residence lot. (By the way – Sellers are supposed to notify their permit administrators when selling a recreation residence so that a new inspection can be completed prior to listing the cabin for sale.
A copy of a canceled check (or other form of proof of payment) demonstrating the annual land use fee has been paid by the seller. Generally, land use fees are due at the end of January each year.
Information regarding Tract Association bylaws, associated fees, water system fees (if applicable), rules, etc. if the recreation residence tract has an association.
A copy of Region 5 Forest Service policy on the administration of recreation residence permits.
Rumors are afloat that a potential buyer must interview with the Forest Service for eligibility. Not true. According to Sheryl O’Brien, Permit Administrator for USFS LTBM, “There is only one factor that would preclude a prospective buyer from being eligible to secure a recreation residence special use permit – whether or not the prospective buyer already has a special use permit for another recreation residence lot in the National Forest system (nationwide). Per Forest Service policy, the Agency can “issue no more than one recreation residence special use permit to a single family (husband, wife, and dependent children).” Once a recreation residence has closed escrow, the Forest Service will schedule an in-person meeting with the new owner with the purpose of review the permitting process and address any other questions one might have.