Dec 10, 2021 - Business

Charlotte may crack down on Airbnb and other short-term rentals

Photo: Andy Weber

Airbnb is cracking down on New Year’s Eve parties again, but the bigger story for next year will likely be what the city of Charlotte is trying to do to make more permanent restrictions on short-term rentals.

Driving the news: Airbnb introduced a global party ban in 2020 to protect hosts from disruptive parties, and guests from contracting COVID. This year, the company is doing it again.

  • The ban only lasts one night, for entire homes listed on the website on NYE.
  • If you have a history of positive reviews on Airbnb, the restrictions don’t apply to you. 

The bigger picture: Charlotte’s leaders have sketched out a plan to implement some permanent restrictions for Airbnb, Vrbo, and bed-and-breakfast owners.

  • The regulations are being considered after numerous recent complaints of noise, lack of parking, increased trash and litter, and concerns about homes being turned into “party houses,” says Laura Harmon Unified Development Ordinance senior project manager.

Context: The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) puts Charlotte’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan into action through rules and regulations.

  • It’s a 608-page document that combines eight ordinances into one.
  • Among them are rules that would limit the length of stay for renters, and would limit the number of residences in a certain area that could be registered with the short-term rental services at the same time.

The other side: “There are already other ordinances in place that will protect residents from neighboring houses to become party houses. These regulations aren’t going to fix those, they’re going to make it harder for the people who are doing it right,” says Bryan Holladay, a lobbyist who has worked in the development industry. 

Why it matters: If you plan on living in Charlotte in the next couple of decades, these ordinances will affect you. But, the 600-page doc, which we’re expected to read and give input on, is full of legal-speak and very specific rules for property owners wanting to use their space as a form of revenue.

Airbnb and VRBO fall under the same category: short-term whole-dwelling rentals.

  • A Short-Term Whole-Dwelling Rental is “a complete dwelling offered for rent for a period of less than 30 consecutive days.” (UDO 15-51).  
  • Under the UDO section 15-51, one short-term whole-dwelling rental would have to be at least 400 feet from any other short-term whole-dwelling rental. In other words, if you’re in a townhome and your neighbor is renting through Airbnb, you won’t be able to.
  • Also, a “local manager” has to be available 24 hours a day. (UDO 15-29)
  • No parties, events, classes, weddings, receptions, or other large gatherings will be allowed. (UDO 15-29)
  • Can’t be any type of vehicle, camper, or trailer. (UDO 15-30)

Your traditional bed and breakfast gets its own category.

  • It’s defined in the UDO as “a single-family detached dwelling where a resident/owner provides lodging for a daily fee in guest rooms with no in-room cooking facilities and prepares meals for guests.” (UDO 15-41)
  • Guests aren’t allowed to stay longer than seven days in a row. (UDO 15-14)
  • All rooms should be accessible from the inside of the building, not the outside. (UDO 15-14)
  • Food from the B&B can only be served to guests staying at the B&B. (UDO 15-14)

Then, there’s a third category: “single-room occupancy,” or “SRO.”

  • An SRO is a “residential development where single rooms are rented individually as a permanent and/or primary residence.” (UDO 15-51). In other words, this would cover the recent college grad who rents your basement for cheap.
  • “SRO’s shall be limited to one occupant per room.” (UDO 15-30)

Of note: Airbnbs, VRBOs, and B&Bs, are considered “commercial” use in the UDO, whereas SROs are considered “residential.” And some of these rules already exist in the current zoning ordinance, which defines standards for B&Bs and SROs, they’re just carrying over.

  •  “The regulations are not platform (e.g. Airbnb, Vrbo, etc.) specific. If the entire dwelling unit (e.g. single-family house) is rented out for less than 30 consecutive days per occupying party, it is a short-term whole-dwelling rental,” said Harmon.

The other side: “It really looks like the city of Charlotte is looking to eliminate short-term rentals by making it extremely difficult,” Holladay told Axios. 

Zoom out: Other cities in North Carolina, like Raleigh and Ashveille, have ordinances allowing for single-short term rentals.

  • The State Court of Appeals is currently deciding whether a Wilmington ban on short-term rentals is a violation of state law, according to reports by WECT.

What’s next: The UDO isn’t finalized yet, and you can give your input to City Council via their website — there’s a button you can click to get involved. There are also virtual events and ways to share your input online.

  • You can comment until January 14.
  • City Council is scheduled to vote on these regulations in July 2022 as part of the larger UDO adoption.

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