Charleston, South Carolina, passes strict short-term rental law
- Apr 12, 2018 | Jennifer Sokolowsky
The City of Charleston has ended its ban on short-term vacation rentals — but it has passed strict rules to regulate them.
The City Council voted 11-2 to approve the new regulations, which do not allow whole-home short-term rentals and restrict what types of buildings can be rented out for short terms in different zones of the city.
The new law goes into effect in 90 days and a violation will be a misdemeanor crime. Three new enforcement officers have been hired by the city to monitor short-term rentals.
After the new law was approved, the council asked that staff work on a process to allow residents to get exceptions from the zoning rules in special cases.
Under the new rules:
- In Category 1, which includes the Old & Historic Districts on the lower peninsula, only properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for short-term rentals.
- In Category 2, which covers the rest of the peninsula, properties must be at least 50 years old — except in Cannonborough-Elliottborough, which already has its own short-term rental rules.
- In Category 3, which is the rest of the city beyond the peninsula, there is no age requirement for short-term rentals.
The property age-related restrictions were implemented in order to protect historic neighborhoods that are already heavily touristed, as well as to prevent property owners from building new properties specifically for short-term rentals.
All short-term operators must:
- Own and live on the property full time, determined by the 4 percent owner-occupied property tax assessment.
- Stay overnight in the home when short-term guests are present.
- Apply for a short-term rental license from the city.
- Include the short-term rental license number on any advertisements for the property.
- Have at least one off-street parking space.
- Not host more than four adults at a time.
- Pay business license fees.
- Collect accommodations taxes.
Short-term rental taxes in Charleston are a total 14 percent of the cost of accommodations. Short-term rental hosts must collect these taxes from guests and pay them to a combination of state and local tax authorities.
For Airbnb hosts in South Carolina, Airbnb will automatically collect state-administered sales and lodging taxes that are due on accommodations. But Airbnb does not collect locally administered lodging taxes. Other platforms, such as VRBO and HomeAway, do not collect accommodations taxes on behalf of hosts at all.
Ultimately, hosts are responsible for collecting lodging taxes and remitting them to the proper tax authority. MyLodgeTax is a tax management service that can help short-term operators make sure they’re getting lodging taxes right.