Columbia passes city ordinance targeting short-term rental property

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Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 9:03 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The City of Columbia passed an ordinance regulating short-term rental (STR) property during a council meeting on Tuesday.

Come next month, people hosting their properties on websites like Airbnb and Vrbo will have to operate on a business license and pay annual registration fees.

The passing of this ordinance comes after 18 months of council members negotiating with STR operators from across the Capital City.

“I think this is a good first step in regulating short-term rentals in the city of Columbia,” said Councilman Howard Duvall on Wednesday.

Duvall tells WIS the new ordinance is not as harsh as he originally anticipated. When it was proposed in 2021, the ordinance sought to ban all non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in residential areas.

“In my mind, a non-owner-occupied short-term rental should not be located in a residentially zoned area. They are a business, they are a boutique hotel, and we should not allow that. This ordinance does not do that, and I think that is something we will look at down the road as we gather data,” continued Duvall.

We were told by STR operators that Duvall’s original draft would have effectively banned all Airbnb-type properties from Columbia. In response, some STR operators fought against the proposal for nearly two years.

“I think it’s a good starting point. I think the only negative is that it can change in the future,” said David Bergmann, Owner of Heartwood Furnished Homes

Bergmann’s management company oversees over 100 short-term rentals in the greater Columbia area. He’s been an advocate for STRs since the ordinance’s proposal.

Come this May, Columbia will require all STR operators to secure a business license and pay annual permit fees; $100 for owner-occupied and $250 for non-owner-occupied units.

Duvall said the revenue from these fees will go towards hiring two new code enforcement officers to monitor STRs across Columbia.

“Code enforcement said they’re going to take 30 days to basically develop the permitting process internally in the city. After that, there’s a 90-day window where we’ll be able to go out and get permits, the same way that we would get long-term rental permits. And I definitely commend the city for making that just the same thing that we’re doing for long-term rentals, it’s just for short-term rentals now,” concluded Bergmann.

The city’s code enforcement tells WIS they plan on locating every STR in Columbia. A housing official told WIS they hope to have a good idea of that number when the mandatory registration period ends later this year.

It’s believed by city officials and operators that anywhere from 600 to 1,000 STR properties exist in Columbia.

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