Airbnb Hickory Flat.JPG

A tiny house in Hickory Flat is listed on Airbnb.

A new ordinance to regulate short-term rental units in unincorporated Cherokee County is now in place.

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved adopting a new county law that regulates short-term rentals, such as those offered through companies like Airbnb and Vrbo. The board also approved listing short-term rentals under the definition of hotel to remove any doubt about such rental being subject to the county’s hotel/motel tax and would be the responsibility of the listing company to pay such taxes.

Under the ordinance, people wanting to establish a short-term rental in the county will be required to submit an application for a short-term rental certificate. A copy of the certificate must be posted within the unit, along with information such as the unit’s owner and contact person, the location of the nearest hospital and the maximum number of overnight guests and vehicles that can be on the property. No more than five bedrooms would be allowed in a rental unit, with a maximum of 10 overnight guests on the property, but children under the age of 10 would not count toward this limit. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors must be installed, while each floor of the unit will have to be equipped with a five-pound fire extinguisher.

The ordinance also establishes fines and other actions the county can take for violations noted at the unit. For the first violation, a written warning will be issued and a fine of $250 will be levied. If, within a 12-month period, a second violation occurs, the fine will increase to $500 and the rental certificate will be suspended for a period between 30 and 90 days. Should a third violation take place in that same time frame, the fine will increase to its maximum of $1,000 and the certificate would be revoked. The unit owner will also be ineligible to reapply for such a permit for 12 months following the date of revocation.

During the hearing, several residents shared their thoughts about the ordinance. Tom Ware said one of his concerns included how long it would take before a citation of violation would go before the county magistrate court. Tommy Johnson wanted to be sure this ordinance had the teeth needed to be strong and fully enforceable.

Initial plans to consider a short-term rental ordinance began during the board of commissioners planning retreat in late January. A first public hearing was held on this subject at the board’s June 1 meeting, but county officials tabled it to give staff more time to consider information and public comments, and further refine the proposed law.

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