Officially, short-term rental of rooms or apartments in Charleston, South Carolina, is only permitted by zoning in a small section of downtown. Unofficially, hundreds of spaces outside that narrowly drawn zone are being offered for rent to short-term lodgers through online services such as AirBnB. That's now the focus of a legal battle in Charleston, where a coalition of business interests calling itself "Global Real Property Trust" is suing dozens of property-owners in the city to put a halt to the practice. The Post and Courier has a report here (see: "Short-term rentals a growing issue in Charleston," by Allison Prang.
"Right now, more than 500 properties in Charleston are on Airbnb, perhaps the most popular website for short-term rental listings, according to Airdna, which tracks the online booking service," the paper reports. "But under current zoning rules, only properties in a specific district within the Cannonborough-Elliottborough neighborhood can be rented legally for fewer than 30 days. That area is bordered by Bee, Morris, President and Meeting streets up to the Septima P. Clark Parkway."
Newly elected Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg has a personal interest in the issue: his wife Sandy Tecklenburg was cited in 2015 for illegally listing a home for rent on a vacation rental website, according to a report in the Charleston City Paper (see: "John Tecklenburg’s wife cited for illegal short-term rental," by Paul Bowers). "Neither one of us had any idea that short-term internet rentals weren't allowed in the Neck area of the peninsula," Tecklenburg, a commercial realtor and former city director of economic development, told the City Paper in an email. "But ignorance of the law is no excuse," he added, saying that the pair had taken down their listing and paid a fine.
But Tecklenburg said he'd like to see the city's policy re-examined. "I really do think we need to find a responsible way to allow our citizens to take advantage of new platforms and marketplaces like Uber, Airbnb, and others," he said. "The sharing economy, as it's called, is exploding all over the world, and for good reason — it's making real people's lives better every day, by offering opportunities and conveniences that just weren't available before."
In an interesting twist, short-term rental marketplace host AirBnB says it's willing to pay property taxes, if that's what it takes to make the market work. The New York Times reported that story here (see: "Daily Report: Airbnb Urges Mayors to ‘Please Tax Us’," by Jim Kerstetter). “I’m not aware of any company standing up at the U.S. Conference of Mayors and saying, ‘Please tax us," said Airbnb executive Chris Lehane.