Lowcountry municipalities considering changes to short-term rental policies

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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Lowcountry leaders plan to discuss possible changes to short-term rental policies. These discussions come just ahead of the busiest part of tourism season. Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach, and the City of Charleston all plan to discuss rentals on Tuesday this week.

Short-term rentals make for a convenient stay in the Lowcountry but some elected officials say they’re seeing a need for stricter requirements across the industry, including harsher penalties for those that fail to comply with requirements.

18 months into a short-term rental ordinance, Mount Pleasant Councilman Jake Rambo says some property owners are operating illegally and aren’t paying up on taxes they owe to the town.

“There will be a $500 fine each time they operate it illegally,” says Rambo.

Mount Pleasant has nearly 400 short-term rentals property units in the town. Rambo says most are legal but some owners operate illegally leading to a need for penalties to make sure the rentals are operated the right way.

“We’re not taking away anybody’s short-term rental rights here,” says Rambo. “What we’re doing is making sure there are clear guidelines in place to make it fair amongst all the short-term renters.”

One owner says she concerned policy changes could reverse the recovery her business has seen over the last few months.

“It’s gradually picking back up, it didn’t hurt too bad but I survived,” says Michelle Johnson who owns a short-term rental property in North Charleston.

“It’s going to hurt not just the owners, it’s going to hurt the people that’s actually coming in town looking for short term rentals,” says Johnson.

The City of Charleston and Folly Beach will hold their own discussions surrounding short-term rental regulations by looking at ways to cap short-term rentals and make sure the owners are operating legally. For Johnson, she wishes owners could be included in those discussions.

“We probably could have like a committee or something where we all get together because it’s going to hurt a lot of people, it’s extra income,” says Johnson.

The City of Charleston will hold its council meeting at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. Mount Pleasant Town Council will meet at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday. Folly Beach will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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