Charleston has only received 102 short-term rental applications, but is monitoring 1,600+ listings under new law

"Most people want to comply," says Livabiliy Director Dan Riccio

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Tuesday's Charleston City Council meeting included an interesting dive into the data behind Charleston's foray into legal short-term rentals.

The ordinance regulating listings on Airbnb, HomeAway, and other websites went into effect at midnight on July 9, and the city started accepting permit applications the next day. The protracted battle over who should be allowed to run a short-term rental drew many interested parties, but that feverish attention hasn't translated to a high number of applications yet.

Here are a few things we took away from city Planning Director Jacob Lindsey's presentation at last night's meeting:



181: The number of "grandfathered-in," legally-operating short-term rental listings in the city prior to the new law. That includes 54 bed-and-breakfasts and 127 commercial short-term rentals (STRs) in the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood.
1,669: The number of STR listings that the city's enforcement contractor, STR Helper, has found online within the City of Charleston.
353: The number of those 1,669 listings that have been confirmed as actually existing and have been sent to the city.
58: The number of those 353 listings that are compliant, approved, and permitted.
185: The number of those 353 listings that are not compliant.
87: The number of warning letters that have been sent out to those 185 non-compliant listings.
13: The number of court summonses that have been issued to short-term renters thus far.
40: The number of STR listings that have been removed from online listing websites.
18: The number of neighbor complaints that have been logged by the city.
102: The number of STR applications that have been received by the city.
6: The amount of STR applications that have been fully issued (3) or are pending issuance (3).
9: The amount of STR applications that have been outright denied.

Before passing the STR law in April, Council members discussed introducing a set of exemptions for those who weren't covered by the city's relatively strict law by May. One commonly-cited example includes the case of a vacant, inherited James Island property that its owners rent, using the revenue to finance upgrades.

Lindsey urged council to hold off on re-working the ordinance until more data is gathered.

"We’re just really beginning the process, but it’s working," Lindsey told the Council members. "With that said, what we’d like to ask of you, is giving staff more time to continue to roll the process out."

A city spokesperson previously told City Paper that the city has "no intention of using the information gathered for any other purposes other than STR enforcement," but Livability Director Dan Riccio gave more specifics on how the city is using the monitoring service at last night's meeting.

Riccio told Council members that the city is sharing information with Charleston County regarding properties that might be avoiding their property taxes. Under the new ordinance, the property owner must live in the unit that he or she wants to list for short-term rental. Those properties are taxed at a rate of four percent of fair market value per year, while non-owner occupied properties are usually taxed at six percent.

"We have a lot of people with six percent properties that aren’t living there, that are rated as four percent," he said. "We’re identifying those individuals and sending that information to the County as well."

Charleston County also uses STR Helper to monitor listings within its jurisdiction, which means both the city and the county have access to the same type of information regardless of sharing agreements.

"Since the 'primary residence' requirement was introduced by the new STR ordinance, keeping track of property tax statuses is part of the city’s STR enforcement process," said city spokesperson Chloe Field. "When we come across a property through our STR enforcement measures that is registered at the wrong property tax status, it’s standard for us to share that information with the county, who enforces those matters."

You can read CP's coverage on how to apply for a STR permit here.

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