Are Short Term Renal Laws Constitutional?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 01, 2019 | Last updated on April 04, 2019

Just google "Charleston short term rental ordinance," and you'll see the South Carolina city is struggling like many others nationwide to legislate the Airbnb-ification of American homes. Since the law went into effect last summer, the city council and residents have debated, amended, and seen vigorous enforcement of an ordinance that carries a criminal conviction and thousand-dollar fine per violation.

And, of course, they are seeing lawsuits as well. One even claims the law is unconstitutional. And while some of the Charleston's issues with short term rental regulations are unique to a 300-year-old city, others highlight problems municipalities are facing coast-to-coast.

Short Term Rental Laws

According to Charleston resident Marvin Wilson, the city's rollout of the short term rental ordinance has been plagued with issues legal and logistical. The city was backlogged with permit requests, and the website links for permit applications didn't work either. "Even the email address provided to citizens to inquire or submit questions was inoperable," Wilson's lawsuit claims. "As a result, many citizens who would otherwise have been entitled to permits were unable to obtain them prior to the publicized date on which the ordinance would be enforced."

Those are problems that any city could face implementing new rental restrictions. But Wilson also claims that Charleston's requirement that homes located in the Old and Historic Districts must to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places before they may be granted a permit treats residents unequally, and has been unfairly enforced. Wilson's home is on the border with the Old and Historic District and should not be subject to National Register restriction, according to his lawsuit, yet he was still cited for violating the ordinance. Because the city has no input regarding which properties are added to the register, the requirement "fails to furnish a uniform rule of action applicable to all citizens."

Long Term Effects

Cities, counties, and states are still sorting out how to handle short term rentals and companies like Airbnb. So, ordinances and statutes can differ substantially depending on where you live. For the best information on local rental rules, consult with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney in your area.

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