by Paul Bowers
The wife of Charleston mayoral candidate John Tecklenburg was found guilty of illegal use of property last year after listing a house on a short-term rental website, according to Livability Court records.
Tecklenburg, a commercial realtor and former city director of economic development, says he and his wife Sandra were unaware at the time that short-term rentals — which have gained popularity via web-based listing services, including Airbnb and VRBO, in recent years — were illegal in his part of the city. City Council passed an ordinance in 2012 outlawing rentals less than 30 days in length throughout most of Charleston.
Asked for a comment, Tecklenburg sent the following response via email:
Last year, my wife Sandy received a citation from the city for listing a house on a vacation rentals website. And, to tell you the truth, we were both pretty taken aback at the time. Neither one of us had any idea that short-term internet rentals weren't allowed in the Neck area of the peninsula. But ignorance of the law is no excuse, and upon receiving the ticket and becoming aware, we immediately took responsibility by removing the listing, shutting down her account on the website, and paying a fine of $500.
Violators of the city's ban on short-term rentals must appear in Livability Court, a municipal court that also handles noise violations, improper disposal of garbage, and failure to board up vacant houses. Court records show that Sandra Tecklenburg was found guilty of Illegal Use of Property on June 2, 2014.
Tim Keane, director of the city's Department of Planning, Preservation, and Sustainability, says the city began ramping up enforcement of the short-term rental ban in the summer of 2014 and has since written at least 35 citations for homeowners who violated the ordinance. According to Keane, code enforcement officers initially give homeowners a warning that they are in violation of the ordinance, and they only give a court summons if a homeowner continues to violate the ordinance.
"We never received a warning," Tecklenburg says. "If we had, we would have stopped immediately and taken responsibility, as we did when we got the citation." Some other homeowners who have been charged under the ordinance have also said that they did not receive a warning from the city before receiving a ticket.
Asked for his opinion of the current short-term rental ordinance, which bans the rentals everywhere except for commercially zoned properties in Cannonborough-Elliotborough, Tecklenburg gave the following response:
I really do think we need to find a responsible way to allow our citizens to take advantage of new platforms and marketplaces like Uber, Airbnb, and others. The sharing economy, as it's called, is exploding all over the world, and for good reason — it's making real people's lives better every day, by offering opportunities and conveniences that just weren't available before. We don't want to miss out on that here in Charleston. And we don't have to, as long as we're all willing to sit down around a table and find reasonable solutions that work for everyone. After all, it's not like any of this is rocket science — we've been finding ways to integrate new technologies into the life of our city for more than 300 years now. We know how to do this. And with the right leadership, I'm convinced that we'll be able to make these new platforms and opportunities available to our citizens in a responsible way that preserves and protects our shared quality of life.
Tecklenburg's household is hardly alone in having violated the short-term rental ban. A search on Airbnb turns up hundreds of listings within city limits, most of them outside of Cannonborough-Elliotborough. Read more about some homeowners who have run afoul of the city's short-term rental ban in Wednesday's City Paper.