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Foundation Matters

Short Term Rental Ordinance Takes Effect

Posted: July 9, 2018

The city of Charleston’s new Short Term Rental (STR) Ordinance will take effect as of midnight July 9, 2018. The ordinance, adopted by City Council in April, establishes clear STR eligibility guidelines within Charleston’s historic districts. The ordinance also provides the city with the infrastructure it needs to effectively monitor compliance, an issue HCF’s advocacy team will be watching closely.

Information on STRs, eligibility requirements and instructions on how to file a complaint may be found at

The Foundation has effectively represented its constituents on the STR issue for almost two years, serving on the Short Term Rental Task Force, meeting with industry experts and advocating for regulation during public hearings and in individual meetings with elected officials. “Short Term Rentals posed an imminent threat to the cultural character and livability of our neighborhoods,” said Winslow Hastie, President and CEO of Historic Charleston Foundation. “Whole-house STRs and rentals where the owner was not required to remain on the property were particularly concerning to HCF. We consider the implementation of this ordinance which specifically addresses these two key issues as a significant victory for livability and for the historic preservation movement in Charleston, yet we have lingering concerns over the STR issue.”

Enforcing the Ordinance

As Hastie points out, “The success of the Ordinance will lie in the city’s ability to enforce it.” To that end, three new STR enforcement personnel have been hired to investigate complaints and reports of non-compliance. Also, the city is encouraging residents to help monitor compliance within their own neighborhoods. Complaints and reports of non-compliance should be addressed to the Office of Livability at 843.724.3779 or directly to STR personnel at [email protected]. Noise complaints related to STRs should be directed to the police at 843.577.7434.

While this ordinance is an appropriate first step, the concern over STRs is far from settled. City planning and zoning bodies continue to approve numerous STRs via alternate approval processes not governed by the new ordinance. HCF steadfastly advocates against the proliferation of STRs and other accommodations uses in Charleston.

HCF Calls for Reform

“The STR Ordinance is a critical first step, yet we also need reform of the accommodations use approval process,” Hastie said. HCF is working with city staff to revive their efforts to reform the accommodations use approval process after a first attempt was defeated last year by City Council. The repeated, agenda-after-agenda refusal by the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals-Zoning to use their legal authority to deny accommodations applications continues to threaten livability. As an example, last month the Planning Commission approved the rezoning of seven houses near the intersection of King and Shepard streets from general business or residential use to non-owner occupied short term rentals.

Many HCF constituents engaged on this issue and YOU made a difference! We hope you will continue to raise your voices and join with us to reform of the accommodations use approval process.

9 responses to “Short Term Rental Ordinance Takes Effect”

  1. Glenda Nemes says:

    I have been a very vocal spokesperson for very restrictive rules concerning STRs. I personally am very dismayed by the several Boards that continually undermine the desires of the residents of downtown to approve exception after exception. There are now a whole group of STRs that have been approved with no over-arching rules. They brazenly maneuvered into the hole between old and new rules and will the constant mystery rentals. No one will understand the guidelines(of which I believe there are none) to enforce. There are many grandfathered properties as well with their own set of rules. What a mess these Boards have created. My best hope is that the tightening and clarification and simplification of rules will happen very quickly. It is not worth suffering the often irreversable breaches to find the mistakes.
    Personally, I foresee an ever growing lack of livability downtown for residents as the historic center become a commerical center for tourist. I moved recently relocated out of downtown again because of this very reason. My beautiful and well run and owner occupied B and B appears to now be a tourist workhorse with no upkeep and care for the city or neighbors. To my knowledge it has never been occupied by the owners and is run by a real estate agent. I predict more of these types of situations, degrading the downtown culture. Sad, Sad, Sad

  2. Alex Pappas says:

    Did the 7 houses near King & Shepard St. get approved?
    Is there any recourse?

    • Taylor L says:

      I don’t know if they were approved or not, but the owner did not renew any of the leases and the street is basically all empty now. The last tenants will move out at the end of this month. The last I heard, the discussion/vote was pushed to a later date and never saw any follow up on the matter.

  3. Joy Hume says:

    I am so glad that the STR ordinance was passed. I had no idea that a property owner could get around the old or this new ordinance. What can we citizens do to pressure the various boards to only allow the new ordinance to be the rules that restrict STR?

  4. Juliette Arnheim says:

    If these rules are “flexible” to some and not to others, they are useless to protect those of us who want to retain a pleasant neighborhood here. Bad enough that multiple tall buildings have already obliterated our once lovely skyline….

  5. Jane says:

    We own an 18th CENTURY historic manor house on the Albemarle Sound, which we have enjoyed using as a bed and breakfast for many years; however, we are sad that so many air bnb places have cropped up here in Edenton and countryside and some of these renters are loud and disrespectful and it has hurt our business and others, as well!
    Such a shame to allow this!!

  6. Once a property owner gets a license to offer short-term rentals, they’ll be issued a license identification number that’s required on every site where the property is advertised.

  7. linda wohlfeil says:

    I am a 5th generation Charlestonian and remember the slums and crime of the 50’s,. 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. My parents would not allow me to go out alone after dark. Most local residents remember. It is the wealthy New York, Conn., New Jersey residents from “off” that don’t have a clue. They have taken over our city and want to run out the few local folks that depend on Airb&b’s to maintain their properties. There are many city laws to control noise and developers. Historic Charleston Foundation is a sounding board for the wealthy downtowners below Broad St.
    There is no reason to ban Airb&b’s because a few downtown residents were disturbed and don’t like tourists!!! It was the “guest” homes below Broad St.
    that kept Charleston alive during the Great Depression and WWII. We are a living, breathing city that belongs to all citizens. This ordinance takes away property rights from the middle class and poor to accommodate the wealthy!! The Battery Carriage House is still in operation today and I am certain it is the reason the house is still occupied today. Historic Charleston B & B is the reason so many locals were able to stay in their homes and has been in operation for decades. I much prefer AirB&B’s over the many new hotels going up.

    • Holland Williams says:

      Linda, thank you for sharing your perspective. For the Foundation, this is a quality of life issue, not only South of Broad, but throughout all of Charleston. With non-owner occupied short term rentals, the houses, particularly those in the historic district, are subject to being bought by corporations who maintain these rental properties and have no ties to the community. Those in neighboring properties lose the benefit of having “neighbors” and long-term rental housing rates tend to rise throughout the area. The latter is particularly troubling to the Foundation as we are actively working to bring more attainable housing options into the community. The Foundation, as members of the Short Term Rental Task Force, spent almost two years studying the issue including researching best practices from other communities and the benefits and unintended consequences STRs brought other communities. As a STR does not operate in isolation and affects the neighborhood(s) as a whole, our position was to support quality of life for the neighborhoods.

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