Visitors to Savannah looking to rent a house during their stay could soon find that process under closer scrutiny. The city is proposing new regulations on short-term residential rentals.
Vacation rentals are popular in Savannah, but there’s no city ordinance governing the practice. Proposed rules would dictate parking and occupancy rules for short-term rentals and hold owners accountable for neighbor complaints.
The city held the first of two public meetings on the proposal Thursday.
Under the proposal, property owners hoping to rent an entire house for fewer than 30 days would have to obtain a certificate from the city that would be displayed in any materials marketing the property for rent. In order to do so, owners would need to get a business tax certificate, provide a sample rental agreement, and certify the property complies with city safety codes.
The proposal would apply only to rentals of entire dwelling units, not individual rooms rented out in owner-occupied houses. The rentals would only be allowed in areas of the city already zoned to allow inns.
Officials say formalizing short-term rentals would ensure property owners pay the city’s hotel/motel tax, which they’ve never been required to before.
“That tax is used to advertise Savannah and support tourism,” explains Charlotte Moore of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, “so basically they’ve been riding off the coat tails of others who’ve been doing this legally.”
The proposed regulations would also provide ways to track complaints against renters and hold property owners accountable. Owners would be notified of any complaints against occupants or rental agents, and the city would be able to revoke the rental certificate on a property if three violations occurred there within 12 months.
Common complaints against rental properties include parking violations and loud partying behavior that can disrupt a residential neighborhood.
Many of the residents at Thursday’s meeting voiced those concerns and questioned why the proposed rules single out vacation rentals. Several people said it was unfair to blame short-term rentals for all of the problems. Those comments met with murmurs of approval in the packed Metropolitan Planning Commission meeting room.
“In four years, I’ve had twenty problems with the long-term rentals and only one problem with the short-term rentals,” downtown resident Ken Zapp said of the properties in his neighborhood. “Long-term rentals are a much bigger difficulty here in the historic district.”
Officials say the current proposal focuses on short-term rentals because of the lack of existing regulations on that type of property.
The next public meeting on the proposed regulations will be Tuesday, June 17. The architects of the proposal plan to present it to the mayor and City Council June 26.