[image-1] Charleston city staff shared new numbers Tuesday night that show the effects of the city’s regulation on short-term rentals listed on websites like Airbnb and HomeAway.
Since enforcement began in July, the city and its enforcement contractor, STR Helper, have removed 775 listings from online platforms, according to a presentation from Livability Director Dan Riccio during a City Council meeting.
These listings represent homes that did not meet the city’s strict criteria for operating short-term rentals.
Slightly more than 1,600 short-term rental units within the city are still being advertised on various websites, though the city’s Livability Department has only issued 73 new permits thus far.
“The numbers don’t look like we’re doing much,” said Councilman Bill Moody.
Riccio says that identifying and verifying any properties suspected of breaking the city’s ordinance, which is done by STR Helper and the city’s three full-time STR enforcers, is a time-consuming endeavor.
One hundred and eighty-six permits had already been issued for bed-and-breakfasts and commercial short-term rentals in Cannonborough-Elliotborough, the only neighborhood where they were legal until Council passed the “Airbnb law” in April.
So far, the city’s Livability Court has doled out 23 convictions to 12 individual property owners who were found guilty of illegally listing their properties after the enforcement date. Each individual fine costs a maximum of $1,087.
“I know one of ’em,” said Councilman William Dudley Gregorie to sparse laughter.
“They got the message,” said Mayor John Tecklenburg.
More surprisingly, of the 36 cases pending a Livability Court hearing on Dec. 17, 20 belong to just two property owners with 10 cases each.
Riccio blamed conviction delays on the court’s infrequent holiday schedule.
“We’ve got to adjudicate them and get them going, that’s the problem,” Riccio said.
Tuesday’s update comes after Council voted to send proposed changes to the STR ordinance to city staff for review. At the meeting, Council delayed tweaking the law to allow property owners to leave their homes while they rent them. Those changes would also have eliminated the requirement that homes in the Old and Historic districts be listed on the National Register of Historic Places to qualify for short-term rental permits.
City planner Jacob Lindsey proposed that Council hold off on changes for now.
“We recommend the creation of a short term rental advisory committee,” Lindsey said. “This could be a small, relatively manageable group of people who could look at the status reports that come before Council, evaluate existing policies, and analyze the effects of proposed policies.”